Dustin Pedroia’s best year will be remembered as coming about in 2011, and we will not see a grand exposition of his talent that great from now on. And the Red Sox fan, as well as the general fans of baseball, will come to realize this in 2014.
He still will be a great player. But his 4K performance against the Reds is a sign that his consistency in contact and pestering pitchers won’t be as stable moving on forth. He’s getting a little bit slower, garnering only two steals nearly 25% into the season (and with a green-light holding manager to boot).
This isn’t even a knock on Pedroia due to his surprising start, but more to the history of 2nd basemen and how they fare after their 31st birthday. Fangraphs had brought it up last year questioning how much Cashman should invest in Robinson Cano. There was even a better one that I wished was titled better, since the article can be a template/warning on all 2nd basemens’ value after their prime.
Adding to the last article, which talks of how the position puts a lot of physical stress on the players, Pedroia’s mentality toward the game has only accelerated the process. At the same time, it is that same mentality that makes him such a tough out, such a great hitter, and such a gold glove fielder.
The sad thing is, at some point ( and we could be talking 2017 here, folks) the wear n’ tear will outmatch his aggressiveness, and he won’t live up to the caliber that will be needed to get the Sox another title. I’m sure the organization’s recent contract was given to him as sort of a deferred-style setup, whereby the assume he’ll produce for the next 4-5 years, and he’ll essentially be paid $20+ million per year doing so.
It also helps because if he does continue to produce, they don’t have to go through the arbitration process or headache situation of whether they should pay a 38-year old player one extra year. Especially at a point where it becomes a marketing issue of having your face of the team retire as Red Sox.
Where it doesn’t help, and where the Red Sox might’ve created a dangerous situation down the road, is their long-term plan for Mookie Betts. You now have a situation of a player in decline alongside a rising star in the minor league ranks. You have a fanbase that wants to win, and a player that defined winning for this team for a decade. You have the statistics of all the 2nd basemen that have come and gone, and you have a trade-friendly contract that can be dealt if they choose to go that route down the road.
The Red Sox don’t sacrifice players in their system unless they get a valuable need in return, and 2012 might be looked back on how it brought about mistrust of management toward outsourcing talent in the free agent/trade market.
Betts, along with Jesse Owens and Bogaerts, might be the guys they want to be on the field in 3 years. Jon Lester and Pedroia made this team great for a long time; sadly, our young talent is knocking on the door, asking when that time might be up. Lester is more about the money, and the Red Sox have a choice to determine a future with Lester.
As with Pedroia, his future depends on being great. If not, the Red Sox will be coming upon one of the hardest decisions this organization has ever faced.