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.