The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes reports the Red Sox and free agent J.D. Drew are “days away” from reaching an agreement on a long-term pact.

His asking price, according to sources, is at least $14 million. That’s $4 million a year more than the Sox offered last winter to Johnny Damon before he signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees.

Statistically, Drew ranks among the game’s best players. In the last three seasons, he has an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .946, which ranks 11th among players with at least 1,200 plate appearances, just ahead of Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees (.945). Only four outfielders had a higher OPS: Ramírez (1.014), Lance Berkman of the Astros (1.000), Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels (.961), and Edmonds of the Cardinals (.947).

Drew’s on-base percentage of .415 over the last three seasons ranked sixth overall, and third among outfielders, trailing only Berkman (.428) and Abreu (.419).

“If you get him on the field, he’s the best free agent outfielder of the bunch,” said an executive with a team that signed one of this offseason’s other prime targets.

Drew has been the subject of intense media criticism for a perceived lack of passion, especially when it came to playing hurt. His nickname in the Dodger clubhouse, according to one big league coach, was “Nancy Drew,” and according to one major leaguer who has played against Drew for much of his career, one Dodger player greeted the news of Drew’s departure by phoning friends in jubilation.

I think it sucks that Jeff Kent can’t keep his telephone conversations confidential.

Of Baltimore’s failure thus far to make a splash in this winter’s free agent market (Roger Cedeno, aside), the Sun’s John Eisenberg asks,

Just one question about the Orioles’ predictably doomed pursuit of free-agent top dogs Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee: Why even bother? Oh, and one more question: How many years of being put off by the escalating free-agent market does it take for you to stop being put off by the escalating free-agent market?

And while the Orioles are in desperate need of an overhaul, I might agree that those who lost out on the Carlos Lee bidding will soon consider themselves the winners. The San Jose Mercury News’ Andrew Baggerly claims the Giants outbid the Astros, but Lee prefered to sign with Houston, a move that if nothing else, signals San Francisco’s willingness to get out of the Sultan Of Surly Business for once and all.

The SF Chronicle’s Henry Schulman reports the Giants are very close to signing IF Rich Aurilla and OF Dave Roberts, along with progressing in their negotiations with 2B Mark Loretta and reliever David Weathers. Given Weathers’ excellent track record of carrying Tom Glavine’s golf clubs, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Braves were showing some interest.