J.D. Drew has one more year on his contract and there seems little doubt at this point that the Red Sox will bring David Ortiz back for at least one more season. Either they will pick up his $12.5 million option or sign him to a deal more reflective of the current market.
It seems safe to expect that Drew and Ortiz will be significant pieces of the 2011 lineup.
For pending free agents Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, there could not be better news.
Drew and Ortiz are lefthanded hitters and have reached a stage in their careers where lefthanded pitchers bedevil them:
Drew vs. LHP
2010: .613 OPS, 4 HR
2009: .863 OPS, 6 HR
2008: .926 OPS, 3 HR
Ortiz vs. LHP
2010: .570 OPS, 2 HR
2009: .716 OPS, 6 HR
2008: .741 OPS, 5 HR
It’s not reasonable to expect these trends to change. Ortiz turns 35 on Nov. 18 and Drew will hit 35 two days after that. Each of them, particularly Ortiz, are susceptible to defensive shifts as well.
Now consider the lefthanded starters in the American League East moving forward:
Yankees: CC Sabathia, maybe Andy Pettitte for another year and probably Cliff Lee via free agency
Tampa Bay: David Price
Baltimore: Brian Matusz
Toronto: Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil
Meanwhile, the Rangers have C.J. Wilson. Oakland’s rotation includes Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez. The White Sox have Mark Buehrle and John Danks. Francisco Liriano has come back strong for the Twins.
Barring changes, AL contenders will have at least a dozen quality lefty starters next season, probably seven within the division.
As the Red Sox build their roster, that has to be a big consideration.
The switch-hitting Martinez has abused lefties this season, hitting .399 (Yes, .399. He’s 57 of 143) with 11 home runs against them. He has an .858 career OPS against lefties.
Beltre has a .962 OPS against lefties this season and eight home runs. For his career, Beltre has an .826 OPS against lefties.
Beltre will be 32 in April and VMart will be 32 in December. Now for the unquantifiable old-school stuff: Both have adapted well to Boston, they play hard all the time and they play hurt. Their teammates and their manager love them.
Now to be certain, Beltre is having an off-the-charts season and Martinez probably won’t have a 1.180 OPS against lefties next year. But Ortiz and Drew are pretty much to a point where they’re platoon players, at least against the better lefties.
Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia provide power from the right side, but probably not enough to offset the difference.
Sabathia and Price aren’t going anywhere any time soon. The Blue Jays and Orioles also have tough lefties.
It’s easy to sit here and spend John Henry’s money. But keeping Beltre and Martinez — or at least one of them — would seem pretty vital to the success of the team in 2011 and beyond.