J.D. Drew’s career was legendary long before he arrived in St. Louis. The young outfielder started making headlines while he was in High School and made a big splash on the major leagues the year before the Cardinals selected him in the Amateur Draft.
Fresh from high school, J.D. was selected in the 20th round of the 1994 draft, but elected to go to college instead. When he came out of college in 1997 and entered the draft, experts everywhere had him pegged as the top young player in the draft that year. The Phillies agreed and with the second pick overall (the Tigers took right handed pitcher Matt Anderson from Rice University) drafted J.D. into the organization. The only problem was, J.D. wanted premium money despite never having played in the major leagues. Agent Scott Boras had made no secret of the fact that they would seek a $10 million signing bonus from any team that drafted his client and the Phillies elected to take the gamble. The league had placed a value on the number two pick of the draft at $2.6 million and that is as far as the Phillies would go. J.D. would call their bluff and sit out the entire season, re-entering the draft the following year and joining the Cardinals as the fifth overall pick in the 1998 draft.
The Cardinals would waste no time getting the talented young man to the majors, despite some critics saying that he may have been rushed. The outfielder would struggle through his rookie campaign in 1999, hitting .242 with 13 home runs and 39 runs batted in. It was 2001 before the Cardinals and their fans got a glimpse of the potential of Mr. Drew. That season he would hit .323 (still a career high), club 27 home runs, drive in 73 runs and post a .414 on base percentage.
J.D. would stay with the Cardinals through 2003 before leaving a whole new mark on the organization on the way out. He would leave the team with just under 100 home runs for his career (96), just under 300 runs batted in for his career (280) and a career .282 batting average. In an effort to improve the team in the here and now, Drew and utility man Eli Marrero were sent to Atlanta in exchange for reliever Ray King and starting pitcher Jason Marquis. However, the Cardinals would not pull the trigger on the deal until the Braves included one of their prized prospects, Adam Wainwright.
Georgia native Drew would only spend one season wearing the Braves uniform before he was on the move. J.D. would hit the open market and sign a lucrative, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. J.D.’s first season in Los Angeles would be interrupted by injury. It was the following year, 2006, that J.D. would drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. At the end of that season, J.D. and his agent would execute an “escape clause” in his five year contract and J.D. would be back on the open market.
This time, J.D. would find himself square in the middle of the “East Coast Bias” as he would sign a five year contract with the Boston Red Sox. He has been productive, less injury prone, and a strong piece in the Red Sox franchise over the last four years since that contract was signed. He has hit for a .270 batting average, 76 home runs and 264 runs batted in since joining the team.
News broke this week that J.D. is seriously considering retirement at the end of his contract, based on many factors. He has cited the desire to talk to his friends and family, pray about it, and see where his body is physically at the end of this season before he determines the next step. J.D. had discussed the possibility of retirement during the 2010 season as well and most sources close to him say they are not sure which way he is leaning.
He may not be remembered as a Cardinal when all is said and done, but he started in St. Louis and fans in that city will always remember him for what he did for the team, what he did as he entered the league, and the return the team got for him as he left.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
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