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The risks and rewards of signing Pedroia now

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  July 24, 2013 02:05 PM

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Dustin Pedroia has the lowest slugging percentage of his career for a very simple reason. On Opening Day, with the Red Sox up by six runs in the ninth inning, he decided it was an excellent idea to dive into first base.

Pedroia was out, as he deserved to be. Diving into first base is almost always a bad idea because it slows you down.

In this case it was a terrible idea because Pedroia tore a ligament in his thumb that only recently has fully healed. As a result, he has 32 extra-base hits.

That makes signing Pedroia to a seven-year, $100 million extension [which will be announced today] a risky proposition. While Pedroia is to be commended for playing every minute of every game with passion, that takes a toll on his body.

Will Pedroia physically be able to play second base at a high level as he gets into his mid to late 30s? If he can't, where will he play? He really doesn't profile at another position.

Those are valid questions. The Red Sox have Pedroia under their control through the end of the 2015 season under his present contract. They could have waited until then, assessed his viability and paid him accordingly for five seasons.

But the $100 million he will instead receive is based on much more than whether he will be a good second baseman in six or seven years.

As the Yankees did with Derek Jeter and the Mets with David Wright, the Red Sox recognize the need to strengthen their brand. Once David Ortiz retires, Pedroia will be the player who embodies their franchise. In times good and bad, he'll be the player who stands up and represents their investment to the public.

He will be the player prospects like Jose Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Garin Cecchini and Blake Swihart will emulate. Whatever the 2016 Red Sox are like, his stamp will be on that team. His personality will be the dominant one in that clubhouse.

Long-term contracts and seniority are status in a clubhouse. For the next eight seasons, Pedroia is the sheriff.

No formula can determine the worth of that. But there is a worth. That stuff matters when you're trying to run a business. The Red Sox put their faith in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford a few years ago and the whole thing went up in flames. In Pedroia, John Henry and Tom Werner have a player in that room they can trust to do the right thing.

The money will come out to $14.23 million a season on the average. That's a lot, but that's not close to outrageous in 2013 terms. There are 46 players who will make more than that this season. That's right, 46.

Waiting also could cost the Red Sox more. Robinson Cano will be a free agent after this season and figures to command a deal worth close to $20 million a year. Pedroia's agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, would have welcomed that news. That could have gone to the Red Sox and offered to cut them a break at $17 million a year.

Pedroia also has been one of baseball best bargains for years now. Will some of that $14.23 million in 2016 and 2017 be for past serviced rendered? Perhaps. But so what? He was paid $457,000 the year he won the MVP.

Baseball's salaries are only going to go up with the television money being funneled into the game. This deal makes financial sense for the Red Sox.

Here's some advice for the Sox: Insert a clause telling the guy not to dive into first base.

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