By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
In news that shouldn't come as a surprise to many, Dustin Pedroia will not report to Red Sox Spring Training for the start of camp.
Interim Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday morning that he spoke with Pedroia Wednesday night, and the 2008 AL MVP is 'still too sore' to report with the rest of the Sox position players on Monday. Pedroia is still recovering from left knee joint preservation surgery he had in August. A report in late January indicated he'd suffered a setback to the knee while getting in shape for Spring Training.
For those fans left holding out hope of seeing Pedroia at Fenway again, out of reasons of nostalgia or even a belief he can still contribute, it's time to face the facts. Pedroia's major league career is over. Yes, 'Pedey' was an organizational cornerstone for a decade, and was a major part of two World Series championship teams. But at this stage in his career it is unrealistic to expect him to contribute in any way to the major league club. By the way, those two opinions (Red Sox hero, his career is done) are not mutually exclusive, despite what some on Twitter may tell you.
Here's the reality when it comes to Pedroia. He's played in just nine major league games over the last two years. In those nine games, he is just 3-for-31 at the plate (.097). His last at-bat, an infield pop-out at Yankee Stadium on April 17, dropped his all-time batting average to .299, an unfortunate yet appropriate symbolic representation of this stage of his career.
While yes, he did contribute as a top-of-the-order bat the last time he played a full season (he hit .293 in 105 games in 2017), he is now three years and two knee surgeries removed from that performance. There are only a handful of position players in baseball that have performed at an everyday-caliber level past the age of 36, never mind doing so on a surgically-repaired knee. Beyond his struggles at the plate, his inability to move in the field or on the bases (he posted the slowest sprint speed of all AL second basemen in 2019, 25 feet/second) should make it difficult for the Red Sox to justify having him in their plans in any way in 2020.
So what's next for Pedroia? Financially, he's not going anywhere. He's due $13.1 million from the Red Sox this year and next to finish out his eight-year, $110 million contract he signed in 2014. After that, the team will continue to pay him $2 million a year through 2024, which increases to $2.5 million until 2028 as part of a deferment agreement. It's severely doubtful that Pedroia would walk away from $26 million via retirement, and short of that there is no way the Red Sox can get out of the deal without starting a war between the league and the MLBPA. With $18 million allocated to Pedroia for the next decade, it's unrealistic to think the Red Sox would try to buyout the remainder of his deal, pushing even more money even further down the road.
How about the Red Sox? With Pedroia more or less out of the picture, the team will continue to attempt to fill a hole they spent all of last year trying to plug. Michael Chavis is penciled in as the Opening Day starter, but projects as more of a first baseman long term. Pending a splash is free agency or via trade (which feels highly unlikely at this point) the Red Sox next long-term second baseman should either be CJ Chatham, a second-round pick in 2015, or Jeter Downs, who the team got from the Dodgers in last week's Mookie Betts trade. Both players are working on transitioning over to second base from shortstop, a switch Pedroia made early in his career with the Red Sox. Given the way the last few years have gone for Pedroia, his best value to the club right now may be to work with those two players and get them ready for the majors, as opposed to the seemingly impossible task of trying to get his knee ready for an MLB comeback at nearly 38 years old.
If Pedroia wants to continue to be the team-first clubhouse leader he was praised for being for most of his career (save some issues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017) he can stay around the team lending his experience and support to a locker room that desperately needs it after a tumultuous offseason. Beyond veteran leadership however, it's unrealistic to expect him to contribute much more to the Red Sox this season, or any season going forward.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].