LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Reputations are made at baseball's winter meetings. Careers are built. And those who make theirs in the hotel suites, restaurants and lobby bars here can only hope that, as time slips by and history brings down that final gavel, neither reputation nor career turns to sawdust.
Theo Epstein. You're up.
Right now, fresh off a dizzying day of free-agent largesse and just a couple of weeks removed from his industry-staggering bid for Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, Epstein looks like a cool, calculating, 007-kind of general manager. The still-young GM who directed the construction of the first World Series winner in Boston in 86 years -- Epstein ... Theo Epstein -- has shrugged off two years of post-Series hangover and is now at the top of the game.
Never mind, if it's possible, the Manny Ramirez trade talk that has been the No. 1 topic around this Disney World resort for the past few days. Forget, too, for the moment, that $51.1 million check that the Red Sox pledged a few weeks ago just to open negotiations with Matsuzaka.
Tuesday, Epstein and the Sox front office finalized a stunning five-year, $70 million deal for outfielder J.D. Drew, then followed that with a nearly equally bold four-year, $36 million agreement with young shortstop Julio Lugo. With those two contracts, the Sox stuffed a couple of holes in their lineup and made it clear that a repeat of 2006 -- a third place finish in the American League East -- simply was not acceptable.
And with those deals Epstein cemented his reputation as an aggressive GM. Unless, that is, history proves particularly harsh.
Then he'll simply be a foolish, headstrong, wrong-thinking one.
How gutsy, how absolutely screw-what-everybody-else-thinks, is the signing of Drew? The whole baseball world knows that the enigmatic Drew has a locker full of talent. Everyone knows he can be one of the game's best. He's a stone-faced, never-let-them-see-you-sweat on-base machine that plays an All-Star caliber defense.
"In one player," Epstein told reporters in explaining the signing Tuesday night, "we could address two areas of weakness."
But everyone, too, knows that all of Drew's talent often does nothing but sit at his locker, stymied by a strained groin or a sore hamstring or a particularly nasty cold. He's been on the disabled list seven times in the past eight years.
The career on-base percentage that Epstein and the Sox so proudly point to -- .393 in nine seasons -- is impressive. But Epstein and the Sox can't deny, too, that in the past eight years, Drew has played in fewer than 119 games a year.
What's the on-base percentage for someone sitting on the DL?