2017 was a forgettable season for Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and his upcoming 2018 campaign isn’t off to a good start.
Pedroia had left knee surgery this morning and according to a tweet from Tim Britton of The Providence Journal, the Boston lifer is expected to return to game action in “approximately seven months,” putting his 2018 debut in late May.
Red Sox estimate Pedroia’s return to games in approximately seven months.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) October 25, 2017
At age 34, Pedroia is slowing down with age and may need to consider hanging up his cleats soon.
A career to remember
Now, most important of all, Pedroia’s knee surgery does not mean he is any less of a player. Yes, that same knee caused him to miss a month of action this past season, but Pedroia still had a solid year from a statistical standpoint. He hit a respectable .293 and though his seven home runs were his lowest total in three years, he also drove in 62 runs.
Pedroia has also been a staple in Boston’s lineup since 2007 when he was named American League Rookie of the Year (and also hit a clutch postseason home run), and he also took home the MVP trophy the following year. He has played in four All-Star Games and is a .300 career hitter. Most important of all, Pedroia has helped the Red Sox win two World Series in 2007 and 2013, and has established himself as a strong leader in the clubhouse.
Pedroia has also put up a 48.4 wins-above-replacement (WAR) for his career, and he has put up a WAR of four or more in six of his 12 seasons. Make no mistake, Pedroia has done great work for the Red Sox and should be recognized accordingly.
On the decline
Unfortunately for Pedroia, this is not the first time his health has been a concern. He has played in 150 or more games just five times since becoming a full-time player in 2007. Even in his breakout rookie season, he played through a broken hand and though he was never on the disabled list, Pedroia sat out often enough that he played in just 139 games.
The injury bug struck again in 2010 when a broken foot limited Pedroia to 75 games. In 2012, he had a balky thumb and played in 141 games. In 2014, a sore wrist and hand caused him to miss the last few weeks of the season. A sore hamstring held him to 93 games in 2015.
The 2016 season saw Pedroia hit .318 in 154 games and it looked like his injury woes were behind him, but that is sadly not the case. Between his line drive percentage (LD%) dropping nearly two points to 22.4% from 24.2% in 2016 and his hard contact dropping six full points from 31.9% to 25.9%, Pedroia is now at the age where the Red Sox may need to think about the future regarding the second base position.
The sad news for Boston is that trading Pedroia isn’t an option. He will earn $16m in 2018 and has four years and $56m remaining on his contract. That makes him virtually untradeable unless Boston covers a majority of the remaining money owed and even then, teams are unlikely to be in the market for an aging infielder with low isolated power and a tendency to get injured.
One option would be to move Pedroia to designated hitter, but Hanley Ramirez has a $22m salary and that position held down for next year, and that’s only assuming his vesting option for 2019 doesn’t kick in. This means that though Pedroia could move to that position eventually, it will be at least another year before that happens.
And even if Pedroia moves to the DH spot, Boston has limited options. Prospect C.J. Chatham only has 42 minor league games under his belt, and Deven Marrero isn’t a long-term option at the position either.
This means the front office may have to turn to the free agent market to address second base in 2019, and the options there won’t come cheap. Minnesota Twins slugger Brian Dozier hit 34 home runs in 2017 and42 in 2016 and could easily command over $20m a year. The same goes for Daniel Murphy, who has hit .334 in two years with the Washington Nationals and led the National League in slugging percentage and OPS in 2016.
Either way, one thing is certain. Pedroia put up an awful 1.9 WAR last year and his injury issues should be a concern for Boston, starting now. He has put up negative defensive runs saved (Rdrs) in two of the last three seasons and his power is dissipating.
Plain and simple, the end is near for Dustin Pedroia’s career and the Red Sox need to plan accordingly.
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