Red Sox offseason recap series: 2006-2007


The 2007 Red Sox might have been the most talented of Boston’s three recent World Series winners. But since it’s sandwiched between a Championship 86 years in the making (2004) and one that followed a miserable 18 month period (2013), we can’t be blamed for overlooking how good this bunch really was. The club’s final Pythagorean Record (101-61) suggests this team actually underachieved!

This club was remarkably consistent from start to finish. They never had a losing streak of more than four games and said streaks only occurred three times throughout that season.

The offseason that preceded it had several high profile signings to go along with several lower-key departures. Not surprising considering that 2006 was the first time they had missed the postseason since 2002. Despite the upgrades, the incumbent players provided the biggest contributions. Josh Beckett delivered his best season (and postseason) in a Boston uniform. Mike Lowell drove in 120 runs and won the World Series MVP. Jonathan Papelbon had the best season of his career. Tim Wakefield won 17 games, second best win total after Beckett. Curt Schilling was effective and had a fitting end to his career: walking off the mound with the lead in the World Series (later credited with the win).

That’s not to discredit any of the acquisitions the club made that offseason. All four of them (including a certain errant shortstop) made positive contributions to the club and the Red Sox probably don’t win the World Series without at least three of the four.


Mark Loretta: I recapped Loretta’s one year tenure in Boston in last week’s article. Loretta provided a solid bridge to Dustin Pedroia in his lone season with the Red Sox. He put up a .706 OPS and made his final All-Star Team that season. Defensively, he only made four errors that season (the 2006 Red Sox had a very underrated defense. They had at least five players who deserved to win Gold Gloves, but none of them were awarded one).

Loretta signed with the Houston Astros that offseason and played three more seasons between Houston and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Alex Gonzalez: Like Loretta, Gonzalez was another one-year stopgap player who I went into more detail on in my previous post. He provided excellent defense that more than made up for his .695 OPS in 2006. It should be noted that his OPS for the Reds in 2007 was a whopping .150 points higher than the player who replaced him. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing Gonzalez was also superior defensively to his 2007 replacement.

Gonzalez was well traveled in the last seven seasons of his career (it should be noted that he missed the entire 2008 season due to injury). He was traded back to the Red Sox from the Reds in 2009, putting up a solid .769 OPS for the home stretch. After departing Boston after 2009, Gonzalez would play two more full seasons: a half season in Toronto and a season and a half for the Atlanta Braves. Gonzalez would only play a total of 65 games for Milwaukee in 2012 and 2013. He was the Opening Day shortstop for the Detroit Tigers in 2014, but was released after nine games. It’s very likely that Gonzalez has played his last Major League game.

Gabe Kapler: Yet another guy I covered previously. Despite his reserve outfielder status, Kapler was a very popular player during his time in Boston. He would actually serve a one-year retirement as a player in 2007, managing Boston’s Single A affiliate in Greenville, SC.

Kapler returned to the majors as a player in 2008, signing with the Milwaukee Brewers. His last two seasons were as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 and 2010. He was a Spring Training invitee for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers prior to 2011, but was unable to make the club. Kapler is currently spending his post-playing days as an analyst.

Trot Nixon: So far in this series, Jeff Suppan is the only other departure I’ve covered who was drafted by the Red Sox and made his Major League debut for the club.

May 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former player Trot Nixon walks onto the field as part of the 10 year celebration of the 2004 Boston Red Sox before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

However it was Suppan’s second departure from Boston that I had covered. The pitcher had worn three other uniforms in his time between Boston stints. For Trot Nixon, the Red Sox were the only organization he had ever known prior to his departure after 2006.

Nixon was drafted with the seventh overall pick in 1993. He debuted in 1996, but wouldn’t have a full-time spot in the lineup until 1999. His best seasons would be in 2001 (148 games, .881 OPS, 27 home runs, 88 RBI, 100 runs scored), 2002 (152 games, .808 OPS, 24 home runs, 94 RBI, and 81 runs scored) and 2003 (134 games, .975 OPS, 28 home runs, 87 RBI, 81 runs scored).

Injuries would limit Nixon to just 48 games during the memorable 2004 season, but fortunately he was back on the field in time for the postseason. He put up an .887 OPS in his limited playing time.

The nagging injuries played a big part in Nixon not having the same power output after 2003. Aside from that, he became very ineffective against left-handed pitching in his final seasons in Boston. He put up an .804 OPS in 124 games in 2005 and a .767 OPS in 114 games in 2006. The decline in production and having finished his age 32 season convinced the Red Sox to go in a different direction after 2006. Nixon became a free agent.

Nixon signed with the Cleveland Indians for the 2007 season. He put up a .677 OPS in 99 games, helping the Tribe reach the ALCS, where they lost to the Red Sox in seven games.

Nixon signed a minor league deal with the Arizon Diamondbacks prior to the 2008 season. He would be traded to the Mets during the season, where he would make an 11-game cameo, putting up a .578 OPS with one home run. This brief cameo would be Nixon’s last in the majors. He was a Spring Training invitee for the Milwaukee Brewers prior to 2009, but failed to make the club and was released. Nixon retired shortly after.

Nixon now resides in his hometown of Wilmington, NC and co-hosts a high school football highlights show for a local television station. He has made sporadic returns to Fenway in recent years. The club honored him on “Trot Nixon Day” during a series against the Tigers in 2012. He was also on hand for the commemoration ceremony for the 2004 World Series Champions in early 2014.


Julio Lugo: It’s now time to talk about that infamous shortstop signing.

Only Theo Epstein can explain why he was so infatuated with this player. At the time of the signing, Lugo had a career .340 OBP. A decent number, but not quite good enough to be considered a leadoff man for a first division club (that OBP got a nice boost from a 2005 season, where he put up a .362 OBP in 158 games). Lugo had three seasons where he struck out more than 100 times, another trait that’s usually not found in the best leadoff hitters. Defensively, Lugo was below average. On the plus side, he was an above average base stealer.

There were a few more red flags for Epstein to consider his commitment to Lugo. After being dealt to the Dodgers at the 2006 deadline, the player was now in the second pennant chase of his career (his first was as a member of the 2001 Houston Astros). Lugo put up a meager .545 OPS for the Dodgers. He did hit one double in the NLDS, where the Dodgers were swept by the Mets. That double improved his postseason line to .083/.154/.167, 3/1 K/BB, one run scored, no RBI, and no stolen bases.

All of this considered, Epstein committed four years and $36 million on December 5, 2006.

Lugo put up a .643 OPS in 2007. He would be moved from the leadoff spot to ninth in the order during the season. He was below average defensively. But on a positive note, he did score 71 runs, batted in 73, and stole 33 bases.

Lugo put up a .664 OPS in the 2007 ALDS against the Angels. He was worse in the ALCS against the Indians: putting up a .511 OPS and also made a near-costly error in Game Seven. Fortunately, the Sox offense erupted in the bottom of the inning, making many forget about that near-fatal error. Lugo did redeem himself somewhat with a .962 OPS in the World Series.

Lugo put up a .685 OPS in an injury-riddled 2008 in which he only played in 82 games. He committed a whopping 16 errors, good for a total zone defensive runs saved total of minus 13.

He was even worse in 2009. The seven errors Lugo made in 51 attempts was good (or should I say, bad?) to score a minus 45 in total zone defensive runs saved. It should be noted that Lugo was putting up a rather exceptional stat line of .284/.352/.367/.719 during that timeframe. The decent offensive numbers were not enough to make up for him being a defensive liability. Lugo was designated for assignment with a season and a half left on his deal.

The Red Sox did find a suitor for Lugo. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan. Duncan would never be recalled to Boston and was released in August.

Lugo put up a .784 OPS for the Cardinals down the stretch as well as a 1.100 OPS in the postseason, where they lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS. The Cardinals traded him to the Orioles prior to 2010. The Red Sox paid $8.5 million of the $9.25 million owed as Lugo played out the last season of that contract for a division rival. He put up a .581 OPS in 93 games that season.

Lugo’s final season was in 2011. He was signed in late May by the Atlanta Braves. While his .345 OPS and September release were forgettable, he did have a part in one of the worst calls of all time. Lugo would score the winning run on a walk off blown call by umpire Jerry Meals in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite clearly being tagged out by catcher Michael McKenry, Lugo was called safe at the plate.

The combination of only a so-so offensive track record, subpar defensive resume, and total amount of money committed make the case that Lugo is probably the worst signing Theo Epstein ever made.

J.D. Drew: Do I think J.D. Drew was an underachiever throughout his entire career? Yes. The guy probably got only one-third to one-half of what he was capable of doing with the talent that he had. That being said, do I consider the Drew signing as one of the worst in club history? Absolutely not.

It’s understandable why so many citizens of RSN were, and still are, displeased by the Drew signing. Players who made $15 million per season back then were usually locks to hit 30 home runs and eclipse 100 RBIs. But if you look at Drew’s career at that point there a few things to consider: He only had one 30 home run season and just two others where he eclipsed 20. There was only one season in which he had 100 RBI, one other season where he eclipsed 90 RBI, and just one other season where he knocked in over 70. He also had a history of missing plenty of time due to injury. Add the fact that Drew was going to be 31 at the beginning of his Boston tenure, fans shouldn’t have expected Drew to be much than he already was.

Despite the so-so home run and RBI totals for his career, Drew was a player with a career .393 OBP and .904 OPS at the time of his signing. When he was on the field, he was a count bleeder who consistently got on base and did put up above average power outputs (he did hit 23-30 doubles and 2-4 triples in four out of his five years in Boston).

Drew was also an excellent defensive right fielder with the arm and range to handle the position. That fact is often overlooked when considering how incumbent, upcoming, and/or recently departed outfielders would’ve been bad fits for the position. Coco Crisp had the range but his throwing arm was subpar. Ditto Jacoby Ellsbury. Johnny Damon probably had the range to cover the position for at least a couple of seasons, but his arm was also weak. Manny Ramirez had the arm, but was enough of an adventure trying to cover left field.

Given he was an upgrade with the bat over Trot Nixon and a capable defensive right fielder, and the fact that there was nothing better on the trade or free agent markets, the Drew signing did make sense despite it being a slight overpay (he was a Boras client after all).

Drew played 140 games in 2007, putting up a line of .270/.373/.423/.796 with 11 home runs, 64 RBIs, 30 doubles, and four triples. It should be noted that he spent most of the season batting behind David Ortiz (117 RBIs), Manny Ramirez (88 RBIs), and Mike Lowell (120 RBIs). The guy didn’t get as many RBIs as fans were hoping because the guys batting in front of him usually cleared the pond before he got to the plate. He did score 84 runs, however.

Drew put up a meager .364 OPS in the ALDS that year, but did collect three RBIs in that series. He came up big in the ALCS, hitting a crucial grand slam in Game Six, and finishing the series with a .905 OPS. In the World Series, Drew hit two doubles, scored one run, and batted in two en route to an .878 OPS.

The ultimate highlight of Drew’s Boston tenure came in 2008. Though he would miss 53 games, Drew finished with a .927 OPS and made his only career All-Star Game appearance. That All Star Game was the final one held at Yankee Stadium II (the renovated version of Yankee Stadium I which predated the new ballpark). Drew came in as a reserve and would make five plate appearances in that game, which would go into extra innings. He went 2-4 with a walk, a home run, a stolen base, a run scored, and two RBI. That was good enough to win the game’s MVP Award. It was really awesome to see all of the Yankees’ All Stars gone from the game while Drew was carrying the AL to victory. To see him win that award in the final big hurrah at Yankee Stadium (the Yankees missed the playoffs that year) was icing on the cake.

Drew put up an .857 OPS in the ALDS against the Angels and a .796 OPS in the ALCS against the Rays, hitting a home run and batting in three during both.

In 2009, Drew put up a .914 OPS in 137 games with 24 home runs, the highest home run total of his Boston tenure. The Red Sox were swept in the ALDS by the Angels that October, but Drew did hit a home run and put up an .856 OPS in his final postseason appearance.

Drew played 139 games in 2010, hitting 22 home runs, 24 doubles, and two triples en route to a .796 OPS. His .341 OBP was the first time his season OPS dipped below .373. Much of that was due to Drew’s batting average dipping to .255 that season.

Drew’s decline continued in his final season in 2011. He was hurt for literally half the season as he played in a total of 81 games. When he was on the field, he put up a meager .617 OPS. His contract expired after the season and he retired shortly after.

By no means is the J.D. Drew contract one of the best in Red Sox history. But it also shouldn’t be labeled as one of the worst or even a bad contract. Drew served a purpose and the Red Sox got what they wanted out of him. He clearly met the minimal requirements in years three and four of the deal. The Red Sox had the right to opt out of years four or five if Drew failed to reach the minimal requirements.

For the many or few who still dislike the player’s tenure in Boston to this day I ask these few questions: Would your rather re-live Drew or Edgar Renteria? How about Drew or Matt Clement? Drew or Lugo (who can thank Drew for contributing to many of his 73 RBIs in 2007)? Drew or Bobby Jenks? How about Drew or Carl Crawford? Now those are the real bad signings. Drew’s wasn’t spectacular, but still solid.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
: The Red Sox nearly spent as much money to just negotiate with the player (over $51 million) as they ultimately agreed to pay him during his often-frustrating tenure (6 years $52 million).

Matsuzaka already had a reputation for being one of the best pitchers in Japan, winning 108 games in his eight seasons for the Seibu Lions. With his performance in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Matsuzaka would help make himself one of the most coveted international players in MLB history. With a total investment of over $103 million, the Red Sox were able to obtain his services.

Daisuke’s most productive season was in 2007. While he lost 12 games and had a 4.40 ERA and 1.324 WHIP, Matsuzaka also won 15 games, pitched 204 2/3 innings and struck out 201.

Matsuzaka wouldn’t overly impress on the mound that October. His longest outing was just 5 and 1/3 innings, which was in Game Seven in the 2007 ALCS. His tendency to nibble would be his own worst enemy. It would always drive up his pitch count and led to him being pulled long before he should’ve been.

His most memorable moment that October actually occurred with the bat. In his Game Three start in the 2007 World Series, Dice-K ripped a two-run single off his Rockies counterpart, Josh Fogg. The rest of the lineup and the bullpen provided enough support to secure his only World Series win.

Though he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting, Matsuzaka was not as valuable in 2008. He only pitched 167 2/3 innings, struck out 154, walked 90, and matched his 1.324 WHIP from the previous season. In the ALDS, he gave three runs in five innings in a no-decision. He took the mound twice in the ALCS against the Rays, totaling just 11 innings and giving up five total runs. It was another unimpressive October for Dice-K.

The final four seasons would all be lost ones for Dice-K. He was 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA and 1.871 WHIP in 59 and 1/3 innings in 2009. He was better, but still mediocre in 2010: 9-6, 4.69 ERA, 1.373 WHIP in 153 and 2/3 innings with a 133/74 K/BB. After a rough eight games in 2011 (3-3, 5.30 ERA, 1.473 WHIP, 26/23 K/BB) it was revealed he had a torn UCL. Matsuzaka underwent Tommy John surgery and was lost for the season.

Matsuzaka made it back to the club with enough time to make 11 starts in 2012. His final impression in Boston wasn’t a good one. He went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA, 1.708 WHIP, and 41/20 K/BB in 45 and 2/3 innings pitched.

Matsuzaka spent most of 2013 in the Cleveland Indians minor league system, but was released in August. He was signed by the New York Mets just days later, and he’s been there ever since. This past season he was used as a reliever and occasional spot starter. He finished 3-3 with a 3.89 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, and 78/50 K/BB in 83 1/3 innings pitched. He’s still mediocre. But the pitcher-friendly ballpark curbs the mediocrity somewhat.

Come to think of it, I’d rather re-live J.D. Drew than Matsuzaka as well. That being said, Matsuzaka wasn’t a complete bust, but should’ve done so much better than he ultimately did.

Hideki Okajima
: The Red Sox best signing from Japan that offseason was actually the signing of this lefty setup man who was very fun to watch for most of his tenure in Boston.

For a small fraction of what they committed to Matsuzaka, Okajima provided much more bang for his buck. He would go 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA, 0.971 WHIP, and 63/17 K/BB in 69 innings in 2007. These numbers were good enough to make the All Star game that season.

He was a very valuable asset that October. He allowed just two baserunners in 2 and 1/3 ALDS innings, good for a .857 WHIP. Okajima would pitch five innings in the ALCS, which went the full seven games, not allowing a run and putting up a 1.200 WHIP. Fatigue kicked in by the time he took the mound in games three and four of the 2007 World Series. Okajima gave up a total of three runs in his last two appearances, including a two run home run by Matt Holliday. His final ERA for the World Series ballooned to 7.36, but his WHIP was 1.091 and he struck out six in 3 and 2/3 innings.

Okajima had another solid regular season in 2008: 3-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, and 60/23 K/BB in 62 innings. He gave up two runs in 2 and 2/3 innings in the ALDS. He was much better in the ALCS: 7 and 1/3 innings, one hit, one walk, no runs, and five strikeouts in five total appearances, good for a 0.273 WHIP for the series. It’s unfortunate that the Red Sox would lose that series because that was Okajima’s best postseason series of his career.

Okajima’s 2009 season was solid, but it was evident he was starting to slip: 6-0, 3.39 ERA, 1.262 WHIP, and 53/21 K/BB in 61 innings. He only faced one batter in the ALDS against the Angels, but did get that batter out.

Okajima’s last two seasons were forgettable ones. He had a 4.50 ERA and 1.717 WHIP in 46 innings in 2010, a season in which the Boston bullpen was very below average.

Oki only pitched 8 1/3 innings for the Sox in 2011, recording a 4.32 ERA and 1.440 WHIP before being designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A. He pitched the remainder of the season in Pawtucket and became a free agent after the season.

Okajima was signed by the Yankees that December but some issues came up in his physical and he was released in February. He returned to his native Japan for 2012, signing with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. He put up a 0.94 ERA and 0.839 ERA in 47 2/3 innings for Fukuoka.

Okajima made another attempt at the majors in 2013. He made five appearances for the Oakland Athletics, pitching for innings for a solid 2.25 ERA but unimpressive 2.250 WHIP. He departed Oakland after the season.

Okajima returned to Fukuoka for 2014, putting up a 2.11 ERA and 1.078 WHIP in 42 2/3 innings. One can only wonder if we’ll ever see Koji in MLB again, but sign me up as one who hopes it happens. If it doesn’t, I hope Oki is in attendance for the ten year commemoration for the 2007 Champs in three seasons and receives a loud ovation.