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Spring Cleaning

Drew, now with Boston, and Dodgers' Colletti air their differences regarding the outfielder's opting out of contract

March 06, 2007|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

FORT MYERS, FLA. — It has been nearly four months since J.D. Drew elected to opt out of the final three years and $33 million of his contract with the Dodgers. But the soap opera that decision inspired continued Monday, with Drew saying he left because he didn't want to be traded and General Manager Ned Colletti saying Drew never asked for a no-trade clause.

"We were looking for some job security," said Drew, who wound up signing a five-year, $70-million contract with the Boston Red Sox. "I know where the Dodgers are heading, and I didn't want to become trade bait at some point down the road. Those were things that were very important to me, and it just didn't seem like they wanted to pursue any of those avenues.

"So they moved on and I had to kind of do the same thing."

Not so, Colletti said.

"J.D. had a limited no-trade clause. The question was never asked of me, 'Would you give him a complete no-trade clause?' " he said. "That was never a question that was ever asked. So it was never a point of negotiations."

What neither man disputes, however, is that Drew's decision to leave Los Angeles after two seasons left bruised feelings on both sides. Colletti, who hasn't spoken to Drew since November, felt ambushed when the outfielder exercised his option, and Drew, a devout Christian, said he was hurt by comments made by the general manager.

"I know J.D. is a spiritual guy and a man of his word," Colletti said at the time. "I guess he changed his word."

"Those things kind of offended me," Drew said. "At the time that I talked to Ned -- and I still feel this way greatly about L.A. -- I loved playing there and I loved where I lived. And I would have stayed if we could have come to an agreement.

"We were upfront when we opted out that they were on the top of the list and we wanted to keep the channels open about re-signing there. But after I opted out they really showed no interest."

Although Drew, 31, said he was aware he had an option in his contract, it wasn't until he was approached by agent Scott Boras after the season that he considered invoking it.

"I honestly never thought about that," he said. "I kind of laughed it off thinking, 'We're happy in L.A., we're not really thinking [along] the lines of leaving.' [Boras] said, 'I need you to seriously consider this' and he kind of laid out some options for me and said, 'Hey, this is what I think could happen. With a young family and thinking about having additions to that family I want you to have some job security. I want you to be able to kind of dictate where you're playing for a few years.' "

Drew said he and his wife, Sheigh, agonized over the decision for two days before finally agreeing to exercise the contract option Nov. 9. That was two days before the deadline but three days after Boras told Colletti over lunch that his client could be leaving.

"We weren't trying to renegotiate anything," Boras said Monday. "We went to them and said we have the right to terminate the contract and we would like to talk about a new relationship."

Colletti, however, wouldn't budge. And although Drew got an extra two years and $37 million from the Red Sox, he didn't get the additional trade protection he said he wanted because the Boston contract allows him to veto trades to only two teams. The Dodgers deal had five teams on the no-trade list.

"Boston will not be trading J.D. Drew. Certainly not without his consent," Boras said. "Boston was very clear that they want J.D. for the duration."

There had been speculation that Boras had already discussed Drew's availability with other teams but needed the Dodgers' participation to drive the price up. Drew and Boras denied those charges, and the Dodgers, after briefly considering filing tampering charges against Boston, let the matter drop.

Colletti remains unconvinced.

"I'd rather not tell you my sense of whether or not he had already decided to go," the general manager said. "I know very clearly that I wasn't going to increase the salary or increase the duration [of the contract] because he had the right to leave.

"The no-trade thing, it was never a point of discussion."

It's likely that none of this would have been a point of discussion if not for Drew's torrid finish last season.

The oft-injured outfielder was batting only .274 with 12 home runs and 72 runs batted in before an Aug. 25 game in Arizona. But he homered twice in that game, starting a tear during which he batted .317 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in his final 32 games. He finished with team highs in homers (20) and RBIs (100) and played in a career-best 146 games, making him one of the more attractive buys in a thin free-agent market.

That surge also proved instrumental in helping the Dodgers win the National League West, but catcher Russell Martin said Drew's decision to leave has left no hard feelings in the L.A. clubhouse.

"Coming into this spring it was a nonissue," he said. "He opted out of his contract. It was a business decision. And that's the way baseball is.

"He's definitely a guy that's going to be hard to replace. [But] the Dodgers went out and got another veteran guy in Luis Gonzalez, and we'll just go from there."

Even Colletti seems willing to bury the hatchet at this point.

"He made that choice. And that's all right," he said. "I wish him the best."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Drew balance sheet

A look by the numbers at J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox:

$11.4: Amount in millions Drew was paid to play for the Dodgers last season. He opted out of his contract after the season.

$14: Amount in millions Drew will be paid for each of the next five seasons to play for Boston.

100: Runs batted in by Drew last season as a Dodger, a team and career high.

146: Games played by Drew last season, the most in his injury-plagued career.

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