EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 4, 2007

Why the wait for Drew? This is why

Bradford Files

Rob Bradford

Theo Epstein didn't talk in specifics, but within his message resided the reason for the 51-day delay in officially announcing J.D. Drew's contract with the Red Sox.

"It was a minor issue, but something that we wanted to get right," said Boston's general manager. "And when lawyers get involved, sometimes things take longer than they might otherwise."

While neither the Red Sox or Drew's representatives have clarified the machinations of the prolonged negotiations, John Westhoff represents the closest thing to an outsider understanding what kind of obstacles might have presented themselves.

Westhoff, the Detroit Tigers' vice president/baseball legal counsel, is one of the few people in a major league front office who has been put through the ringer that the Red Sox brass found itself in when trying to sign Drew.

In the offseason following the 2003 and '04 seasons, Westhoff was in charge of negotiating the contracts of free agents Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. By early February 2005, Detroit had succeeded in locking up both players, but not before setting the precedent that didn't come up again until Drew's case.

In the case of Rodriguez, Ordonez, and now Drew, no deal was going to be done without the team coming away with some sort of peace of mind.

"It hasn't been done much," Westhoff said. "To the Red Sox's credit, I'm glad they were able to get something done that satisfies their concerns."

While it might make perfect sense that the Tigers implemented outs in Rodriguez's and Ordonez's contracts, contingent on injuries to specific body parts, executing such language wasn't easily done. This was a reality the Red Sox found out in the case of Drew. He agreed to have the final two years of his five-year, $70-million deal voided if an injury to his surgically-repaired shoulder puts him on the disabled list for as few as 35 days in 2009.

Part of the hold-up revolved around the lack of documented cases in relation to Drew's shoulder ailment. There is little medical data in professional sports analyzing the effects of similar surgeries. Most studies regarding similar cartilage replacement have centered around injuries to the knees.

But pinning down the effectiveness of modern medicine was only part of the problem.

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