Red Sox, Drew finally close deal

BOSTON -- J.D. Drew didn't let the fact that he was, technically, an unsigned free agent for the last seven weeks get in the way of his preparations for the 2007 season.

"We've continued right on schedule with everything you'd normally do as far as the offseason routine goes," he said Friday after his long-ago agreed-to deal with the Boston Red Sox was finally announced. "It hasn't been bad at all."

The five-year, $70 million agreement was reached Dec. 5 but not finished until the lawyers worked out an arrangement that would allow the Red Sox to opt out of the guaranteed money for 2010 and 2011 if Drew's right shoulder injury recurs. Drew had surgery on the shoulder in September 2005, and the Red Sox wanted to make sure that they wouldn't be responsible for all of the money if he was damaged goods.

"From the moment we agreed to this contract, a couple months ago now, both sides knew it was going to get done," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "When lawyers get involved, sometimes things take longer than they might otherwise. We're happy this was able to get settled and we can finally move forward."

After wrangling for weeks -- interrupted by the holidays and Boston's pursuit of Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, another client of agent Scott Boras -- the sides agreed on language that would allow the team to opt out of guaranteed money in 2010 and 2011 if the same injury recurs.

"I know him and Theo were working things out," Drew said. "They were just minor issues they were dealing with and everything would work itself out."

Drew takes the place of longtime rightfielder Trot Nixon, who agreed to a $3 million, one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians last week. Drew is slated for the No. 5 slot in the batting order, where he'll keep opponents from pitching around David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

"I'll be glad to hit behind them with guys on base, and to watch them from the on-deck circle. Great, great hitters in the American League," Drew said. "When you play the game of baseball and you play in front of passionate people, it becomes contagious. That's where you get the home-field advantage. That's where a player really enjoys playing."

Drew, 31, has had injuries throughout his career, but he played in 146 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and hit .283 with 20 homers and a team-high 100 RBIs. But he said his shoulder feels great, and he cites the fact that he batted .333 with six homers and 23 RBIs in the last 25 games last season.

"The thing that was really beneficial was to see where it was at the end of last season," Drew said. "To see the swing, and the power numbers, come around. Those were telltale signs for me."

And he thinks he might do even better in Fenway Park.

"I know I lost a lot of hits in L.A., driving the ball to left field," he said. "Hopefully, those turn into doubles."

Drew became a free agent when he opted out of the last three years of his five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers.

"With J.D.'s desire to win, and to pursue a world championship, Boston fit the mold," Boras said. "The ballpark and the nature of his swing, the ability to hit for power and to the opposite field ... his offensive potential would be maximized."