Braves One Year Wonder: J.D. Drew

2003 was an historic offensive season for the Braves. They were the best offensive team in the NL, with a league-leading and franchise record 235 home runs, while also leading the league in runs scored, hits, RBI, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and total bases on their way to a 101-61 record. But two huge cogs in the offensive machine, Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez, left in free agency. Between them, they accounted for 82 HR and 13.6 WAR, and both OPS’d over 1.000. The Braves decided to go with the catching tandem of Johnny Estrada and Eddie Perez for 2004, but didn’t have any reasonable internal options to plug the gaping hole in the outfield left by Sheffield’s departure. To fix this, John Schuerholz made a huge trade, sending Braves top prospect Adam Wainwright (along with Jason Marquis and Ray King) to the Cardinals for Braves One Year Wonder, J.D. Drew (and Eli Marrero).

Drafting J.D. Drew: It’s Complicated

Drew was a product of Hahira, Georgia, a speck of a town just off I-75 north of Valdosta. He was a college superstar at Florida State, and was chosen by the Phillies with the 2nd overall pick in the 1997 draft. But in a long and complicated saga (detailed here), when Drew was not offered a contract in the neighborhood of the $10M he was looking for, he opted to sign with the independent Northern League with the intention of becoming a free agent just before the 1998 draft. But MLB changed the draft rules to close this loophole, and while the MLBPA filed and won a grievance on his behalf, in the end Drew was forced to re-enter the draft and was chosen 5th overall by the Cardinals. This time he signed for $7M, in the process becoming one of the most hated players by Phillies fans everywhere.

He made his major league debut later that year, then became a full time starter in the Cards outfield in 1999. Throughout his career in St. Louis, Drew was productive and played solid defense, but just couldn’t stay on the field. He never topped 500 PA and sat out almost 30% of the Cards games over his 5 full time seasons with the club.

Braves One Year Wonder, J.D. Drew

Drew was slated to become a free agent after the 2004 season, and with Scott Boras as his agent everyone knew he was one-and-done with the Braves. So the trade was basically one year of Drew for the future potential of Wainwright. Near term, the gamble paid off big time. Drew was everything the Braves could have hoped for. He played in 145 games, made 645 plate appearances, slashed .305/.436/.569 (1.006 OPS, 157 OPS+) and played stellar defense, mostly in RF. He led the team in HR (31), walks (118), OBP and SLG, was worth 8.3 WAR (5th among NL players), and finished 6th in the NL MVP voting. The only blemish was a poor showing in the 5-game NLDS loss to the Astros, going 4 for 20 with 4 walks and no extra base hits.

J.D. Drew Post-Braves Journey

At the end of the season, he signed a free agent contract with the Dodgers, opted out of that contract after 2 seasons, then wrapped up his career after five seasons with the Red Sox. He had a couple of excellent years after leaving the Braves and was mostly solid except for his final season in 2011, though never quite reaching the lofty heights of 2004 again. Drew was one of those players that is generally under-appreciated and was never really loved anywhere he played. Maybe it’s because he gave off the general impression that he played baseball because he was very good at it and it paid well, but he never seemed to get a lot of joy out of it. It’s hard for the fan base to really get behind a player like that.

The Obvious Downside of the J.D. Drew Trade

Unfortunately for the Braves, Wainwright was the biggest success story out of all the pitching prospects the Braves traded away during their playoff run. He debuted for the Cards in September 2005 and was a reliever in 2006 before becoming a rotation regular in 2007. He’s had his injury problems like most pitchers, but has been worth 40.5 WAR over his career, chalking up a 3.39 ERA with a record of 162-95. He’s finished 2nd or 3rd in Cy Young voting 4 times, and was selected to the all star game 3 times. He’s still with the club and is under contract for the 2020 season. The Braves achieved their short-term goal of winning another division title, but at a very steep cost.

Thanks for reading on Braves One Year Wonder, J.D Drew. If you enjoyed this piece, catch all of our Wankers and Wonders here.

Author: Kirk H.

Kirk H. is a long-time reader of and occasional contributor to Braves Journal who after all these years is still in possession of most of his faculties. Don't follow him on Twitter (or elsewhere, as that would be kind of creepy).

34 thoughts on “Braves One Year Wonder: J.D. Drew”

  1. JC’d

    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.)says:
    May 5, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Honestly, I’m struggling to even remember other Braves three-team trades. How many other trades have we consummated with more than one other partner?

    I’m going out of my mind on the Furcal Rule for that Trevor Plouffe tweet. I’d guess that they’re about 90% of the way towards a deal, but it could all blow up at any moment until they dot every i and cross every t.

  2. Trevor Plouffe posted on Twitter that he heard from sources that there’ll be baseball starting in July with June 10th being the beginning of ST part 2.

  3. Man, I hope he’s right. I’m looking forward to watching baseball games on June 10th, ahead of schedule.

  4. I think the Drew trade was a big success for the Braves — as others have said, Drew was one of the biggest reasons we won another division title that year. At the end of the day, pitching prospects are hard currency: if you can stockpile a boatload of promising arms, then you have the ability to trade them for things you want, and let some other sucker roll the dice and see if they reach their potential. We traded away a heck of a lot of guys who didn’t:

    • Dan Meyer in the Tim Hudson deal
    • Zeke Spruill and Randall Delgado in the Justin Upton deal
    • Juan Abreu and Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer in the Michael Bourn deal
    • Odalis Perez in the Gary Sheffield trade
    • Bruce Chen in the Andy Ashby deal
    • Joey Devine for Mark Kotsay
    • Roman Colon and Zach Miner for Kyle Farnsworth
    • Kyle Davies for Octavio Dotel (okay — that one was a lose-lose trade)

    The biggest ones who got away are Kevin Millwood, Jason Schmidt (traded in the Denny Neagle swap), and Adam Wainwright. Further down the list are the guys who had some success but not a full career’s worth, like Matt Belisle, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison. (Mike Minor would fall into this category but he wasn’t traded away, he departed as a free agent.)

    Most of these guys wouldn’t have gotten much of a shot in the Show no matter what, because they had too many guys to leapfrog. Turning TINSTA-pitching prospects into major league assets is baseball’s most fundamental alchemy.

  5. I still maintain that JD Drew was a One Year WonderWanker. When Mark DeRosa has to go to the whip to get you to play every day….

    The evidently defunct Rowland’s Office blog had an ongoing feature of posts by “Ol’ JD” for years after his Braves tenure, in which he usually described being too tired to play that day. I enjoyed it immensely.

  6. Didn’t he play with his brother, Tim, on the ‘04 team?

    That’s gotta be pretty cool too.

  7. I’ve had time to think about it, and I’m not happy anymore that they’ve underpromised and over-delivered. Fear porn has guttered one of the 70 or so seasons of the greatest game in history that I’m on this earth to enjoy, and that’s pathetic. July 1st regular season start means about a 90 game season, and that’s beyond pathetic.

    Yes, I’m aware of all the deaths the television keeps scrolling.

    Yes, I’m aware that baseball is a silly game. Yes, I’m aware of how silly I appear. I don’t care. Baseball should be here. I should have spent the first week in London enjoying the first James Bond movie in 5 years. There shouldn’t be mortal fear IN MAY there won’t be college football this season.

    And more importantly, you should be allowed to work if you want to work. It’s May 5th, and there won’t be regular season baseball for almost 2 months. Pa-thetic.

  8. @8 Agreed. Michigan is the worst right now too. When it comes time to actually play games I am not sure they will allow it here

  9. Guys, I think we’re toeing the line here on opinions and politics, but as long as we can keep it civil, it can slide (for now). While many of us are living in areas remotely unaffected by COVID-19 and are wondering “What the hell?”, there are others that are waking up to a living nightmare everyday with sickness at every turn, hospitals overrun, and maybe have lost loved ones from the pandemic.

    With that being said, I’m frustrated too. I want baseball back…but I don’t want it back if it means that the players and their families won’t be safe, and I’m sure there are many heads that know more details than we do that want to pull the trigger ASAP.

    But remember this, gentlemen… no one is playing anything right now, with KBO being the exception.

    Now play nice.

  10. There used to be a time where we were going from 72 wins to 90 wins to 97 wins, and this site was still rampant with negativity, so I’m glad that my meltdown was met by a text from Ryan that I ought to dial it back a tad. Respected, and I shall.

    I was fine with the baseball season being delayed in mid-March. An abundance of caution was necessary, so shutting everything down made sense. And for baseball, it made economic sense to not play since people wouldn’t come anyway. I’m not so naive to think that baseball owners care one bit if a 24-year old elite athlete with no co-morbidities tests positive for COVID. If Touki Toussaint got COVID playing baseball, the owners won’t bat an eye. But if people don’t come, that’s the real problem.

    But why not now? Why not play ball June 1st? Is there not enough meat on the bone for the owners? My assumption now is that they won’t play regular season games in June because people won’t come. There’s probably a very small number needed from attendance that would make it make sense for them to play the games, and they probably don’t even think they can hit that number. And that’s why I say that it’s because of fear porn.

    It had been two and a half months, but I finally just went and broke the law to get a damn haircut. A haircut. Statistically speaking, there seems to be a similar amount of risk in me dying while driving in my automobile on the way to the haircut than I was contracting COVID and dying because the hair stylist or those inside the store gave it to me. And please don’t call the City of St. Pete Police and tell them what I did, please. The fella was the owner of the salon, he’s laid off his other two stylists weeks ago, and he said he can’t make his $700 a month office rent. $700, triple net, essentially his only operating expense. Can’t pay it. My heart hurts.

    I want baseball. Sue me. I was doing fine until this week, and then I went back and listened to a reaction podcast in mid March that was about the baseball season being delayed, and it infuriated me. All of the concerns laid out in the podcast haven’t happened. The goalposts are being moved on a daily basis, and our lives continue to be moved back. Not Korean baseball with names I don’t know. I want Freddie. I want Mikey, Max, and Ronnie. I’ll even take Ender and Kakes. I just want baseball. But in the meantime, I appreciate having this place where I can come whine about having no baseball.

  11. This is the first thing I’ve heard about Hahira since the forty-third annual convention of the Grand Mystic Royal Order of the Nobles of the Ali Baba Temple of the Shrine.

  12. A few of my buddies and I jumped into Strat-o-Matic 365. Made a private league. It does help fill tha gap quite a bit.

  13. @12, for some reason I remembered Drew’s hometown without having to look it up. It’s weird what useless garbage occupies space in your brain. However, I mistakenly thought it was a small town I used to drive through on my way from Atlanta to Waycross during my college days (my then-girlfriend now-wife’s foster father lived there), but looking at Google Maps I realized that the town I was thinking of was called Enigma. That would have been very appropriate for Drew.

  14. Sports seem to currently be caught in between the “everything should be open yesterday” folks and the “sports should be the last thing we reopen at the very end of this, honestly who cares about sports right now?” folks. I think leagues are probably holding off right now to make sure that it doesn’t completely hit the fan as things open back up over the course of this month. I do think we’ll have sports this year for the most part, with college sports perhaps being the most endangered, but they’re gonna be cautious and there won’t be fans in the stands probably all season, so be prepared for that.

  15. @ 15,

    College football will restart unless a significant group of college presidents go off on the danger of it. University System of Georgia has given approval essentially, subject to new negative health info. 90% of D I schools athletic programs can’t survive without a football season. There may be games for part or all of the season with no fans or limited fans, but there will be TV games.

  16. I do not like comparison stories like this to use any portion of the years of a player that are NOT pre FA. You might as well add in how much WAR Drew gained after he played for the Braves to the Braves ledger as to add wins and games and things to the value of Wainwright when the wins and games and things came in year 7, 8, etc.

  17. Apparently Keith Law said that Plouffe is wrong. Sorry folks; the Law has spoken.

  18. So… reading through Keith Law’s thread… as near as I can figure it, there’s one possible way of reading it in which everyone is as nearly accurate as possible.

    Even before Plouffe’s tweet, there has been a lot of speculation (and have been a lot of rumors) that they’d try to get baseball going again over the summer. That was the thrust of Passan’s article, too; clearly that’s been the major theme of the ongoing negotiations between MLB, the MLBPA, and other stakeholders.

    Plouffe, Phil Hughes, and others are talking about a possible plan with some specific dates.

    Law is asserting that no such plan has been formally proposed — doesn’t mean it won’t happen, just means that negotiations are still ongoing and the deal is pretty inchoate.

    In other words, the Furcal Rule still applies, and the Passan piece is still your best guide to the likeliest ultimate outcome. They’re still going to have to hash out all the money questions, and if they do, the likeliest timeline is going to be the same June-July timeframe we’ve been hearing about for weeks, since long before Plouffe.

    Just don’t hold your breath that it’ll all get sorted out within the timeframe of a single Twitter kerfuffle.

  19. THAT SAID, I fear that the framework for the plan that’s been discussed — where Mike Trout and other baseball players want to be able to see their families, and have seminormal lives, while playing baseball — could well be unworkable.

    I fear that the only way for team sports to happen in this country would be for the players to essentially all quarantine together: no family contact, no contact with outside people whatsoever.

    Obviously, I’m not a doctor. I haven’t even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in months. But like Rob says, with anything short of extreme measures, you’re almost guaranteed to get players testing positive. And at that point it’s really hard to keep playing, or else everyone will start testing positive.

    There have been relatively few deaths of major leaguers during their playing careers, and baseball remains haunted by every one of them. Ray Chapman. Steve Olin. Jose Fernandez. Nick Adenhart. Darryl Kile. Roberto Clemente. Oscar Taveras. Greg Halman. Yordano Ventura. Andy Marte.

    That is the nightmare scenario. And that’s what makes it so stinking hard to come to agreement; can you come to terms that one side or the other side won’t immediately demand to renegotiate if circumstances worsen?

  20. I’m just not sure how the players can simultaneously ask for seemingly unrealistic living arrangements, and in the event they not be accommodated, they both don’t play and are paid their salaries. I mean, we’re all under less-than-ideal circumstances with this virus. Sadly, this is just a simple situation where you’re either going to be paid millions and millions of dollars to play a kid’s game… or you’re not.

    And honestly, I don’t have a huge preference either way when it comes to the individual player. If Player X doesn’t want to play, then the sport will go on without Player X, and he can play when things are to his liking. Player Y probably really wants to play and will gladly take his spot. If Player X is Mike Trout, that will be unfortunate. If there are a lot of players who don’t want to play (like seemingly in the NBA), then that would be a problem. I don’t think players have the leverage in MLB the way players in the NBA do. But short of that, let’s suit up the 29 players on each team that want to play ball, and play ball.

  21. I remember Thurman Munson & Lyman Bostock, and I’ve read that there was a catcher for (I think) the Reds in the late 1930s who committed suicide late in the season.

  22. Any workable plan has to assume that some players or staff will come down with COVID-19, and must have a protocol for handling that so that games continue. Otherwise it would be pointless to even start. It probably can’t work unless there is essentially daily testing of everyone involved so that cases can be identified and isolated immediately.

  23. Also, I don’t see how games of any kind are played in arenas or stadiums full of people until we have either effective therapeutics or a vaccine. That’s a recipe for a large breakout (see Italy).

  24. Also, Ryan C I happened to see a clip of the lawyer you mentioned that wore a grim reaper costume to the beach on the Daily Show. He was being interviewed by a local news reporter.

  25. Yeah…he sucks. I won’t get into the reasons, but he’s there only for the attention.

  26. Alex
    @5-Charlie Morton might soon end up being added to the list of the ones we regret giving away.
    @20-Elmer Gedeon and Harry O’Neill were the only mlb players who died serving in WW2. Neither stars but both worth remembering.

  27. @29, good point, though I think he was a true change of scenery guy — I think we gave him some chances, but he really didn’t become who he is till long after he left, and he really needed the Houston voodoo to reach his potential.

    Thanks for the reminder of Gedeon and O’Neill as well.

  28. I’d forgotten how long a career Jason Marquis had until I just looked it up. Pitched in 15 major league seasons and retired with 124 wins, a winning record and an All Star game. Not too shabby. But it’s also hard to say he is a trade we should regret. All of the above and he still retired with only 6.8 WAR. That’s remarkable too. And similar to others you mentioned he had his chances in Atlanta and probably needed a change of scenery.

  29. I think Korean baseball will be a good blueprint to see how they will deal with infections.
    People will get tested positive. If you catch it early, it doesn’t necessarily mean to shut the team or the sports down. Other team sports are starting up again in Europe as well. They all have the same challenge as MLB. If MLB is aiming at a mid June spring training II, they will have a good experience how other countries/sports have dealt with the challenge.

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