On March 24 an arbitrator will begin hearing a grievance filed by the Major League Baseball Players Association that could make J.D. Drew a free agent instead of sending him back into the June draft. J.D. who? you ask. Despite having been the No. 2 selection in the June 1997 draft, Drew has yet to swing a bat—or for that matter draw a breath—in a major league uniform. Yet he has been the object of some major league contempt. Here's a sampling of the vitriol Drew drew from the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him but will probably never employ him.
Veteran outfielder Lenny Dykstra called Drew "foolish" and said, "He's making things very hard on himself." Ace pitcher Curt Schilling, who could use a big bat in the lineup more than anyone, said, "I have to question this kid's desire." Shortstop Desi Relaford said, "I've heard players from other organizations say, ' Drew? I can't stand that guy' "
The betting here, though, is that some teams would—and will—gladly stand him, even at the approximate $11 million price tag Drew's agent, Scott Boras, has put on him. Last summer Drew played in the independent Northern League, where in 44 games with the St. Paul Saints he batted .341, hit 18 home runs and had 50 RBIs. The union and Boras contend that because Drew played in that league, he's a free agent no longer subject to the rules of the draft. The Phillies don't agree, though that's probably academic; they almost certainly won't reach a deal with Drew and, if he must return to the draft, they won't be selecting him.
But whether or not Drew is declared a free agent or goes back into the draft, it only takes one team to give him his $11 million. And talent, we should remind the disgruntled Phillies, is almost always rewarded.