JD Drew as a DH option?

The long, tumultuous era of JD Drew in Boston is finally over, and there are rumors that the 36 year-old outfielder is considering retirement.  It is not clear whether the lifetime 127 wRC+ player and whipping boy of the Boston media (Nancy Drew?  Really?) is simply ready to hang his spikes up, or if a total lack of interest from clubs is causing him to consider this path.  In any case, he is coming off a horrible, injury-riddled 2011 season in which he hit .222/.315/.302 over a half-season worth of at bats.

As terrible as his season was, and as disappointing as his tenure in Boston was, Drew was still a fairly productive player as recently as 2009, where he posted a .389 wOBA and was worth 4.9 WAR.  2010 was a weaker season, but even then he was worth a solid 2.4 WAR, due to a .346 wOBA and solid defense.  He alienated his teammates and the Boston media with his apparent lack of fire and passion (and unwillingness to play through injuries), but I can’t help wondering whether Drew would be a useful piece in a Yankee DH platoon (say with Andruw Jones).

For his career, Drew has been significantly better against righties, posting a .283/.392/.506 career line, good for a wRC+ of 134.  He maintained that level of effectiveness against righties up through 2010, when he had a wRC+ of 130.  His 2011 season was a disaster against both righties and lefties, but it is likely that injury played a significant role in his struggles.  Given his long track record of effective production and success against right-handed pitchers, I would be willing to give Drew a long look as a potential DH if he were interested.

While Drew has been a solid defender throughout his career, having him play primarily DH could help him avoid injury (though as his career has demonstrated, there is no guarantee that he will).  He could be a useful fill-in in the outfield if necessary, but given the defensive and offensive abilities of the current Yankee outfield, I don’t think there would be any reason to have Drew get more than occasional reps out there.  He would provide the Yankees with a solid lefty bat that can work a walk, make contact, and hit the occasional home run (he did have 22 in 2010).

Of course, there are some risks in relying on a player like Drew for a lot of at-bats.  If the 2011 version of Drew is what we are going to see from him going forward, then he would be pretty useless as a DH (or anywhere really).  As always, injury is a major risk, and like Nick Johnson and Carl Pavano he can get a freak injury with the best of them.  However, if the 2009-2010 Drew is still present somewhere in there, then he could re-emerge as a productive player outside of the toxic Boston environment.  A player like Drew does come with some baggage about his desire, but the opportunity to play for a division rival and stick it to his former team and the fanbase that treated him so poorly could help motivate him.  This may be all academic if Drew is serious about retiring, but if he is willing to DH and play in the Bronx next year, I think the Yankees should give him some consideration.  A healthy and effective Drew (not a sure thing obviously) combined with Andruw Jones could be a pretty effective platoon DH.  With other DH/backup options like Wilson Betemit and Carlos Pena already off the market, the Yankees could do worse than a Jones-Drew platoon.

10 thoughts on “JD Drew as a DH option?

  1. smurfy

    As I started to read, I thought,”No, get Eric Chavez instead.” But then, you charmed me, Eric, and I do remembers some forceful swings, some clutch hit.

    Chavez could be a very useful hitter, I’m thinking especially (warmed up) pinch hitting in late innings, when you need a single. He really handles the bat well, well coordinated with a plan of attack. And he plays third (nicely), and Alex may need to rest a balky knee just a bit now and then.

    However, the last thing that occurs to me is that, with either, a frank discussion of his condition sb a prerequisite, since both have thought of retirement. Would think the agent may tend to prevent that, but the club needs a fair chance to decide for itself. With Chavez, they probably have a good idea.

    • smurfy

      Of course, there’s Nunie getting reps at third. Coaching can straighten out his borderline bunt handling, but he needs game throws to manage his cannon.

      • Chavez certainly is not a bad guy to explore either, I would prefer to have a backup for 3b with a bit more pop in his bat than Nunez offers.

  2. In a “thank Christ” moment, I’m not gonna have to watch pinch runner Wilson Betemit or defensive replacement Wilson Betemit again!

    HOORAY ORIOLES!

  3. Michael P.

    As long as were going the cheap route on DH I would prefer a guy who can be useful in 2 ways. No Raul Ibanez, no JD Drew, no Matsui no Damon. These guys might be nice left handed compliments at the DH spot, but that is all they are on the roster for, they really cant play the field. A Russel Branyon signing could however spell someone if they go down with an injury, or if say Tex needs a day off or half day at DH Branyon could fill in and still have the same lineup.

    • I agree Ibanez, Matsui, and Damon shouldn’t really be trusted in the field, but I do think Drew can still play a decent right field.

    • T.O. Chris

      I wouldn’t be much happier seeing Branyan play 3B than I would Ibanez playing the field. Of course Ibanez can’t play the field at all now, but honestly Branyan has no buisness at 3B. He could play 1B sure, but with Teixeira and Swisher why do we need another 1B anyway?

      • Michael P.

        No not at third. Heck Cervelli and Martin would be better options to play third at this point. But I was just using Branyon as an example of a guy who can not only be an option at DH on some days, but hes not totally useless in the field like those outfielders are. Ibanez, Matsui and Damon would never ever see the field, because they are behind the starters on the depth chart, and Jones still gets first crack at any corner outfield positions over them. Just someone whose glove would actually be on the field.

        • T.O. Chris

          But when would a first baseman actually be on the field? Teixeira will get most of the starts at DH, and if you want to give Mark the day off or half day off at DH you move Swisher to first base and put Jones in RF.

          Unless the DH we sign can also play third base, to fill in at a position we will actually need ABs from someone other than the starter at, it really doesn’t matter if they can field or not.

  4. DirtyWater

    Uh huh…and the Sox are talking Posada.

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