Last week, in rating Dustin Pedroia 25th on the trade value list, I noted that he was “an elite player making a relative pittance for the next two seasons.” That is still true, but his relative pittance is going to grow substantially starting in 2015, as the Red Sox have agreed to sign Pedroia to a long term contract that will keep him in Boston through 2021.
As Rob Bradford notes in his message, the contract is a seven year deal for approximately $100 million that begins in 2015, so it could also be seen as a six year extension given that the Sox already had a team option for that year. No matter how you want to phrase it, Pedroia has gone from being under team control for the next two years to the next eight years.
Given that he was going to be paid $11 million in 2015 without the extension, and that the new deal pays him “around $100 million”, we can note that those extra six years cost the Red Sox something in the range of $90 million in new money. And, given the rising prices of high performing players, this a smart move for Boston, especially given what his asking price might have been if he signed after Robinson Cano.
Over the winter, we saw Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander — both two years from free agency — sign extensions that added five years of team control for $135 million and $140 million respectively. Elvis Andrus, also two years from free agency, signed an eight year, $120 million extension. While Pedroia isn’t a perfect comparison to any of these players, getting him for less than $100 million over six years seems like a pretty nice little discount.
Maybe the best comparison overall for this deal is the Ian Kinsler extension from last year. The Rangers owned his rights for two more seasons when they gave him a $75 million extension over five years, so the AAV on that deal and this one seem quite similar, with Pedroia getting one extra guaranteed season. Interestingly, if you look at Kinsler and Pedroia from their three years leading up to the extension, they look pretty darn similar.
Kinsler hit for more power, Pedroia had a higher BABIP, but in the end, it added up to a pretty similar overall package. The defensive reports on Pedroia are a lot stronger than on Kinsler, who began his career as a pretty brutal second baseman, so perhaps you want to give Pedroia a little bit of a boost for defensive value if you don’t trust UZR equating their value in the field. Either way, though, they’re going to end up in the same ballpark, which was probably a point of evidence used by the Red Sox in negotiations, I’d imagine.
That comparison is both good for the Sox (since Kinsler’s extension was a lot cheaper than others we’ve seen) and maybe a little scary for the Sox, since Kinsler immediately posted the worst offensive season of his career after signing the deal, and it’s not entirely clear that Kinsler would get that same $75 million this winter had the Rangers not locked him up last spring, but he’s still a valuable piece and the deal hardly looks like an albatross. And Pedroia has a stronger track record than Kinsler, especially on defense.
But, there remains skepticism about the aging curves of second baseman in general. There’s a conventional wisdom that says that the position takes a physical toll on players that other spots on the field do not, and people point to guys like Roberto Alomar who just lost all his skills earlier than expected. However, I don’t actually see a lot of evidence that we should be too scared of how second baseman age relative to how everyone else ages, anyway.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about this while discussing Chase Utley’s aging curve. Utley has obviously had some injury problems over the last few years, but has remained a highly productive player when he’s on the field, and as I noted in that article, most second baseman who had been as good as he had in his twenties continued to be productive in their thirties. I also looked at the issue in March, when discussing Robinson Cano’s next contract, and didn’t see any compelling data that suggested offensive oriented second baseman just stopped hitting after turning 30.
There are second baseman who have gotten old in a hurry, just like there are players at every position. If second baseman are more prone to premature aging, I haven’t yet seen evidence to support that idea.
In Pedroia, the Sox have one of the games premier players. He might not be tall, and he might not produce in the way that a lot of other players produce, but he’s one of the most valuable baseball players on the planet. Pedroia likely won’t be as good from 32-38 as he was earlier in his career, but at the price Boston is paying, he doesn’t have to be. With the going rate of inflation in baseball, $15 million per year could easily be the market price for an average player by the middle of this contract.
The last couple of years of this deal probably aren’t going to look so great, as Pedroia is unlikely to still be a good starting second baseman in his late thirties. However, the price for the first few years is so low that the overall deal should be a net positive for the Red Sox. Pedroia’s a star who has never been paid like one, and with this deal, he never will be. But he’s going to spend the rest of his career in Boston, most likely, and that is probably more important than maximizing his earnings.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.