The Red Sox have finally spent a significant chunk of the money they saved when they traded more than $240 million worth of contracts to the Dodgers last August, reportedly coming to an agreement with All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia on a eight-year extension worth approximately $110 million that will keep Pedroia in Boston through his 38th birthday. Pedroia's current contract, signed in December 2008, is guaranteed through next season, so the extension, which will have an average annual value of almost $14 million, will begin in 2015 and last through 2021. That's a commitment the Red Sox essentially had to make given the direction the market has taken in recent years, and it's likely to be a contract that will work out well for both the player and the team.
Pedroia, who was the American League's Rookie of the Year in 2007 and Most Valuable Player in 2008, will turn 30 on Aug. 17 and is both Boston's best and most consistent player. A fantastic fielder who annually steals 20-plus bases at a high percentage, hits 15-odd home runs (though he's behind that pace this year), walks as often as he strikes out, and has hit .306/.374/.461 combined over the last seven seasons, Pedroia is one of the best two or three second basemen in baseball. His rivals for that title are the Yankees' Robinson Cano, who is a year older and due an even larger payday as a free agent this winter, and, at the moment, the Indians' Jason Kipnis, who won't be a free agent until after the 2017 season.
Of course, Kipnis is unlikely to hit the open market then, either, as the trend of extending players prior to free agency continues to gain steam, sweeping the Red Sox and Pedroia along in the flow. Among second baseman, the Rangers' Ian Kinsler ($75 million/five years) and the Reds' Brandon Phillips ($72.5 million/six years) both signed extensions last April that locked them up through 2017 (with an option for 2018 for Kinsler). The Angels signed Howie Kendrick to an extension ($44.5 million/four years) three months earlier that lasts through 2015, and the Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill extended his deal through 2016 this February.
Looking at the top second basemen since the beginning of the 2012 season according to Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement , 10 of the 13 men after Cano are under team control through at least 2015. The three exceptions are Chase Utley, who will be a free agent in November and 35 in December, Omar Infante, who will also be a free agent this winter and 32 in December, and 36-year-old Mark Ellis, on whom the Dodgers hold an option for next year.
Given that, the choice to lock up the man who is quickly emerging as the franchise player in Boston was an easy one, and the contract is a reasonable one given the lack of alternatives. The average annual value of Pedroia's new deal, approximately $13.75 million, is less than the $15 million Cano is making this year in the second option year of his current contract, less than the average annual value of Kinsler's extension and far shy of the $18.6 million average annual value of the extension fellow MVP Buster Posey signed at the end of March.
The length of the contract is a bit of a concern given that middle infielders tend to peter out in their mid-30s. A recent and memorable example of that is Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who is one of Pedroia's top comparisons according to Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection system. Alomar's production fell off a cliff in his age-34 season, and he retired after his age-36 season. Pedroia is signed through is age-38 season. That's likely at least one year too many, but that seems like a fair trade for Pedroia's reasonable salary. While this contract is likely to work out well for both the player and the team, that might not happen simultaneously. The yearly break down of Pedroia's salaries has not been announced yet, but it seems likely that he will be underpaid relative to his peers, of whom there are few, in the short term, but he'll make that up on the back end when the Red Sox will likely be overpaying a declining player. That's nothing new. If anything, it's an indication that this is a fair deal for both parties, further evidence that the trend toward extensions, while taking some of the fun out of the offseason, has served as a valuable correction to a free agent market that had once threatened to spin out of control.