The following is a transcript from this afternoon’s media conference call to announce the signing of outfielder J.D. Drew to a five-year contract with the Red Sox. Participating in the conference call were GM Theo Epstein, J.D. Drew, and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras.
Theo Epstein: “We are indeed here to announce the signing of J.D. Drew, and we’re very pleased to have J.D. on board as a member of the Red Sox. He’s an immensely talented player who will impact us both offensively and defensively, and also fit very well into our clubhouse. Two of our goals this offseason were to add another premium hitter, an on-base bat with power, to compliment Ortiz and Ramirez as well as to add center field-caliber defensive player to our right field situation and we think that in signing J.D. we’ve accomplished two of those goals with one signing and couldn’t be happier to have him on board, very much looking forward to seeing him in a Red Sox uniform for a long time.”
Scott Boras: “We felt that when J.D. made the decision to become a free agent, that when the Red Sox approached us, we really felt that the ballpark and J.D.’s, certainly his nature of his swing and the ability to go the opposite field a great deal, to use the left field and left center field gap, certainly his offensive potential in Fenway would be maximized. We also feel his defensive stature and his ability to run and track down balls at a center field caliber for the wide open spaces of right field at Fenway, it would really be something that would bring the Red Sox to a level where his skills, offensively and defensively, would make them a very valued force in the American League East and I think J.D.’s desire to win and pursue a world championship, Boston’s got that mold, and he’s very happy to be there.”
Question: Wondering what the last six, seven weeks have been like seeing as you were sort of in contractual limbo, how was that for you to handle and how difficult?
J.D. Drew: “Not too bad. Everything’s been right on schedule, as any other offseason routine has been for me. I was fully aware of what was going on through talking with Scott and then him and Theo were working things out. It was just minor issues that they were dealing with and that contractually everything would take care of itself. We were actually up in Boston in December, we looked around the area, really liked a lot of the things that we saw, and we’ve been in the process of trying to get a home there and things like that, so we’ve continued right on schedule with everything that you’d normally do as far as the offseason routine goes, and getting ready for another move, so it hasn’t been bad at all.”
Question: How confident are you in your right shoulder, since the surgery, and how well do you think it’s going to hold up over the next few years?
Drew: “Extremely confident, it was great. One of the things, for me was, the situation going into last season, I knew there would be a time where I needed to go into the offseason, do the rehab, things like that. The thing that was really beneficial was to see where it was at the end of last season, and to see the swing and everything kinda come back around as far as the strength and the power numbers go. Those were telltale signs for me and this offseason has been a chance for me to catch back up on the strength gains and to get a lot of work in and really taking care of a lot of the issues that come along with the offseason before, which was not being able to work out near as much because of having the surgery. So it’s been a great offseason of kind of relaxing and not having to worry about surgery and catching up on some strength gains that I wanted to get in the offseason.”
Question: Can you tell us what exactly the concern was with the right shoulder from the Red Sox that kind of delayed this for a few weeks?
Drew: “I think the thing from my standpoint was that they realized that I had shoulder surgery and they wanted to make sure that everything was upheld the way they want it to. And I don’t think it was anything major, it’s just one of those situations when you look at a guy and they have shoulder surgery, you want to make sure that things are where they are and that he’s gonna be healthy. I was very upfront and felt like my shoulder’s in great condition and it’s only getting better, so it’s minor issues is all it was.
Question: Did they tell you exactly what the concern was, for down the road?
Drew: “I think, the things is, those are questions for Theo and Scott to really hash out and Theo knows more about the overall… I know the surgery that I had, and those were the concerns I think, or the main thing was that the type of surgery that I had, they looked into that because of, you know, I don’t if it’s not necessarily a newer surgery, but the kind of surgery it was, maybe threw up a red flag.”
Theo Epstein: “From the day we agreed on this contract, a couple of months ago now, and both sides knew that this was going to get done, and when any potential variable is introduced I think it’s the responsibility of both sides to sit down and find a fair agreement that works for both sides, and as J.D. said, it was a minor issue but something that we wanted to get right and when lawyers get involved sometimes things take longer than they might otherwise, but I thing there was good faith on both sides, and J.D. was kept in the loop and knew that this was going to get done, it was just a matter of time, and we’re happy that everything’s finally settled and we can move forward.”
Question: How do you feel the baseball atmosphere in Boston compares to some of the other cities that you’ve played in?
Drew: “I think it’s awesome, I actually played there once when I was in St. Louis and had the opportunity, I was coming off knee surgery so I played down in that corner in right field and flipped over in the stands on a ball that Garciaparra hit, one of those crazy right field corner plays, but I think the atmosphere there is awesome. I’ve played in some pretty passionate baseball towns, especially in St. Louis where they really get fired up over their baseball. LA was a great town to play in. I don’t necessarily know if it was as passionate as St. Louis or Boston, but everything that I hear and everything that you see, you know the Boston Red Sox are premier team in the league and some place that guys desire to play and I was very excited when they were pursuing me and the whole free agent run and I felt like it was going to be a great fit.”
Question: What kind of adjustments do you feel you’re going to have to make moving from the National League to the American League?
Drew: “It’s really hard to say, I know there are pitchers I’ve never faced before and ballparks I’ve never played in before and those are always adjustments that have to be made and those things are going in the ballparks early and making sure you know the corners and the angles and going over scouting reports, and asking your teammates what the tendencies are of different pitchers that you’re going to face. I think that those are probably the main, critical issues that are going to be laid in front of me next year.”
Question: Both J.D. and Theo referred to the contract hangup as “minor issues.” How can you call them minor issues when a $70 million contract can become a $42 million contract? That’s 40 percent of the contract of the contract that can be lost J.D., how is that minor?
Theo: “I’ll take that J.D. Every contract in baseball has certain contingencies that could turn it from guaranteed to non-guaranteed and those, if you don’t call those major parts of the contract, that’s a minor part of the contract, and the bottom line is what was identified was a very small issue, it just took a while to work out in a way that would be fair to both sides. I think through a lot of hard work from Scott and the Red Sox, we were able to accomplish that.”
Boras: “And also too, when you talk about the status of the contract, salary guarantee provisions are not customarily applicable in normal major league contracts and this contract the salary guarantee provision is in place and with the exception of very, very myopic elements of this and so this is something that is certainly treated for all intents and purposes, as a $70 million contract.”
Question: Scott, would you like to tell us specifically how the guarantee can be lost?
Boras: “I’m not going to get into that because the fact that the… J.D.’s relationship with Boston is something that I’m just saying to you that as far as major league contracts go and my history with them that this is something that is in text, a very, very medically a very minor and very specific issue, and other than that, the contract is guraranteed.”
Theo Epstein: “We never get into the details of the contract, it’s not for public record. But just reiterate what I said. We have an agreement that’s fair to both sides and looking forward a long run with J.D. in Boston.”
Additional Drew comments: When you play the game of baseball, you play in front of passionate people. I really enjoyed Atlanta, but sometimes the fanbase… when we played the Red Sox, it was 70 percent Red Sox fans. … The stadium’s not sold out in the playoffs. We understand the media attention [in Boston] … my family and I are going to enjoy Fenway.
Theo Epstein also commented on a few other Sox items. On avoiding arbitration with Wily Mo Pena, Epstein said have been a lot of discussions with Wily Mo Pena, and they hoped to get something done to avoid arbitration.
On the closer situation, Epstein confirmed that the team doesn’t have one person designated as the closer yet, “but we will.” Tito and John Farrell are spending a lot of time over the phone going over the relievers. Epstein maintains that there are multiple guys who can pitch effectively.
On Jon Lester’s progress, Epstein said the young lefthander continues to do very well, and the team looks forward to seeing him in Fort Myers.