After a season in which he won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award, and was named American League Most Valuable Player, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia added another prize yesterday, a six-year, $40.5 million contract.
"I think the leadership component mattered a lot to us," said general manager Theo Epstein. "I think it's clear to anyone who has spent some time around the club that Dustin is emerging as one of the real leaders in the clubhouse. It's hard to ask someone to be a leader and then go to arbitration with them year after year, have them wonder if they're going to be here for the long haul."
Team captain Jason Varitek won't be around much longer, even if he does re-sign with the Sox. The 25-year-old Pedroia, however, is now signed through 2014, plenty of time to assert his influence on a clubhouse that is getting younger as the Sox integrate home-grown talent. That hardly means Pedroia will inherit the captaincy any time soon, nor would it be necessary. Pedroia, along with the talents that helped win those awards, as well as the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, has already made himself a force in the organization. And now he has a long-term deal to cement that place.
"My first thought about the whole thing was, I play for the best team in the major leagues," said Pedroia, who hit .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs this past season while earning $457,000. "Who wouldn't want to play for the Boston Red Sox? We're going to have an opportunity to win every single year. The fans are the best; the city embraces their team. So, why not? It fits."
Having started contract discussions in mid-August, the sides reached agreement in recent days. Pedroia's deal can grow to as much as $53 million with an option year and bonuses for winning another MVP Award or for finishing in the top three in the MVP voting in any year. The option grows by $1 million for each top three or directly to $13 million (the ceiling) for a second win, and has a $500,000 buyout.
Pedroia will receive a $1.5 million signing bonus, with salaries of $1.5 million in 2009, $3.5 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011, $8 million in 2012, and $10 million each in 2013 and '14. That makes the average salary - important for determining the Sox' payroll for the luxury tax - $6.75 million per year, though it would be a little less than $7.3 million with the option year included.
Necessary for the Red Sox, as per club policy, was to buy out at least one year of free agency and get a club option. In fact, the team bought out two free agency years (2013 and 2014), and added the option year for 2015. The knowledge that Pedroia was likely to win the MVP further persuaded the Sox that this was the time to get a deal done, as the award "significantly affects his earnings in an arbitration setting," Epstein said. "I think [it] made the math work more for us, really sort of increased the stakes for us.
"He's kind of everything you look for," Epstein added. "He's a leader in the clubhouse, I think he's a leader on the field with the way he approaches the game, and he's really talented and helps us win every night. Offensively, what he's accomplished speaks for itself, but defensively, he's made an unbelievable transition from shortstop to second and we think he's one of the best defensive second basemen in the game as well.
"What's not to like about this guy? If we had 25 guys like this, we'd be in good shape. I think his teammates recognize that. We recognize this as an organization. He's huge for us. I don't think we'd be the Red Sox right now without Dustin Pedroia."
And the Sox might not stop with Pedroia. Epstein has acknowledged that the team is interested in speaking with other members of its young core about long-term deals. Talks are in the preliminary stages with Kevin Youkilis, according to a baseball source, and Jon Lester is also expected to generate discussion.
"Dustin's not the only player that we're talking to this winter," Epstein said. "But I think it's significant now that he's signed and he's here. Maybe it can create some momentum."
Though Pedroia said he didn't play a large role in the process - telling his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, to just let him know when an offer was made so he could focus on baseball - he appeared happy yesterday with the outcome. He won't have to go through arbitration, or worry about where he'll be playing for the next six years, or be concerned about his long-term financial security, even if that might ultimately mean some dollars left on the bargaining table.
"I know that if I would have gone year to year, yes, I would probably have made a lot more money," Pedroia said. "I understand that without a doubt. But I'm here in a place that I love. My family loves it. They treat us unbelievable. It's like a family here. I'm happy with this. I'm extremely excited. My wife's excited. My parents, they're ecstatic.
"I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox and I don't want to play for anybody else."
Tony Massarotti of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.