Having quickly advanced through a "rebuilding" stage that was supposed to take at least another year, the Red Sox have taken the steps necessary to ensure that the latest in a long line of iconic Boston players will retire with the organization.
The Red Sox have reached an agreement with Dustin Pedroia on a seven-year, $100 million contract extension. The deal will kick in after next season. The second baseman is currently playing under a six-year, $40.5 million pact.
Pedroia will turn 30 next month and will be very close to 40 (38) in the final season of his new contract. The Red Sox first made an offer to him and his agents over the All-Star break, according to a report.
He has been a fixture in Boston's lineup throughout his career. He has played in all but one of the team's games this season despite tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on Opening Day. Since his first full season in 2007, Pedroia has missed significant time just once. He sat out a good chuck of the 2010 season because of a broken bone in his foot. Pedroia tried to return and play through the injury, but returned to the disabled list after playing hobbled in two games that August.
A second-round pick in 2004, Pedroia was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2007. He helped Boston win a World Series that fall and was the AL Most Valuable Player the next season. He has been an All-Star four times, won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger.
Pedroia wasn't an immediate success in the Major Leagues, hitting just .191/.258/.303 in 98 plate appearances during the 2006 season. Early struggles didn't bother Pedroia or then manager Terry Francona, who continued to inject the diminutive infielder with confidence. He hit .317/.380/.442 in his first full season with the Red Sox.
His approach at the plate and swing defy physics, but the 5-foot-8 (that's somewhat generous) Pedroia is annually among the game's most impactful offensive players. He has twice ranked in the top five in the AL in Offensive WAR (2008, 2011) and is always one of the highest-rated AL players in overall WAR. He creates such constant contact that his strikeout rate is always low. He has struck out more than 60 times in a season just once, which seems impossible given how hard he swings. Pedroia has averaged 10 at-bats per strikeout in his career.
It's impossible for an outsider to measure the impact a player has in the clubhouse and around the community, but Pedroia is a good bet as one of the most valuable Major Leaguers in that regard. Even when the Red Sox struggled late in the Francona Era and during the abysmal 2012 campaign, Pedroia came to work and left with a dirt-stained jersey.
Grade for Red Sox: B
The issue I have with this deal is the length. Pedroia is receiving a six-year extension, but the contract doesn't kick in until after next season. As mentioned above, Pedroia will be 38 in the final year of the new contract. The value of the deal isn't exorbitant, but it could become an albatross for the Red Sox in 2020 and 2021.
For now, though, it's good value assuming he remains a fringe AL MVP candidate for the next few years. This deal is favorable compared to what could have been a five-year contract at the same number, increasing the annual value to $20 million.
Grade for Pedroia: A
With Robinson Cano either headed for free agency or a new long-term deal with the New York Yankees, the comparisons are inevitable. The players share a position, a division, homes in the Northeast and are just 14 months apart.
Cano has more power than Pedroia and is flashier by nature, but they are closer statistically than you might expect.
In 956 games over eight seasons, Pedroia has a career line of .303/.371/.457 with 96 home runs, 466 RBI and 115 stolen bases. In 1,313 games over nine seasons, Cano has a line of .308/.354/.505 with 198 home runs, 784 RBI and 37 steals.
They have near identical averages, but Cano has a clear edge in power. Pedroia, meanwhile, is a better base runner and has a higher on-base percentage. Pedroia has two World Series titles, a Rookie of the Year and MVP award to his credit. Cano has just one World Series victory and no such individual awards.
Cano will ultimately make more than Pedroia for a number of reasons. The perception is that Cano can have more of an offensive impact and he appears to be more marketable.
It's clear, however, that Dustin Pedroia will continue to be the heart of the Red Sox for the better part of the next decade.