Drew Opts Out of His Final Three Years

Dodger fans never did fully appreciate J.D. Drew's efforts during his two years in Dodger Blue. Whether it was his "make-up" signing after the club stiffed Adrian Beltre or not, He was not received with open arms. Now Drew has reversed his field and exercised his contract option to leave the club with three years remaining on his $11 Million per year contract.

During the season -- even during the final week of the regular season -- Drew repeated that he and his wife enjoyed Southern California and planned to stay at least through the full five years he had signed for.

He signed a five-year, $55 million contract Dec. 23, 2004, and had been guaranteed $33 million over the next three years with Los Angeles, but with the option to leave after the 2006 season. Paul DePodesta was the Dodgers' GM when Drew signed the unusual contract.

Did I mention his agent was Scott Boras?

Monday Boras notified the Dodgers he might excersize the option and Thursday he changed directions. Colletti said Boras never asked for Drew's contract to be re-negotiated.

The move left the Dodgers with good news and bad news. They lost their leading RBI man (100), one who had hit .283 with a .399 on base percentage and a .498 slugging average (.897 OPS).

They also $11 million that can be utilized elsewhere and a players who had been criticized for not hitting in the clutch and whose history of injuries caused manager Grady Little to rest him much oftener than would be expected of a 30-year-old outfielder.

"He led the club in RBIs. You just don't snap your fingers and find another player like that," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said on a conference call. "He wants out, he can have out. He's moving on, we're moving on. We'll find players who like playing here. If he doesn't want to be here, he has the right to leave, and he's exercising that right."

"You learn in this business never to be surprised," Colletti said. "I'm surprised how it came down. Everything we had heard, everything that had been written led us to believe the player loved being here."

While Colletti refused to say he was angry, his feelings were apparent during a 30-minute conference call. "I hang onto my feelings," Colletti said. "You try to use some diplomacy right now."

Drew was lonly played 72 games because of injuries in his first year with the Dodgers, hitting .286 with 15 homers and 36 RBI. Previously, he played with St. Louis from 1998-2003 and Atlanta in 2004, where he batted a career-best .305 with 31 homers and 93 RBI.

He has until Saturday to file for free agency.

Colletti said he hasn't spoken with Drew since Oct. 6 -- after the Dodgers were eliminated by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs.

But the GM also said: "I know J.D. is a spiritual guy and a man of his word. I guess he changed his word. You learn never to be surprised when you're dealing in this arena. People change their minds. People change their word. They move on."

Colletti mentioned that Drew and manager Grady Little had an excellent relationship. "I think Grady handled him very well, giving him time off when he needed it, keeping him healthy," Colletti said. "He's a very gifted player. I don't think this team wins without everyone on the roster, and that includes J.D."

Drew was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, but with Boras as his agent, he refused to sign with them. The Cardinals later picked him and a contract agreement was reached.

Colletti said the Dodgers were already in search of offensive help during the offseason. "It opens up payroll, certainly, for the next three years," he said. "It doesn't change the options out there. There's only one more player out there, one we're not going to pursue. It does change how much money we have."

The sudden defection could change the way the Dodgers feel about signing first baseman Nomar Garciaparra. Young first baseman James Loney, impressive late last season, can play the outfield as well and it could open up a spot for rookie outfielder Matt Kemp, who showed a good deal of potential last season.

The Dodgers ranked next-to-last in the National League in home runs last season. Drew and Nomar Garciaparra tied for the team lead with 20 homers apiece, and now both are free agents and if both left, the Dodgers would lose a quarter of their home run total.