McAdam: Pedroia deal safer than most

McAdam: Pedroia deal safer than most
July 23, 2013, 8:30 pm
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox unloaded Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez on the unsuspecting Los Angeles Dodgers last August, it was widely assumed that they were out of the business of giving out nine-figure contracts.

After all, the team didn't so much as dip a toe into the bidding for free agents Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, the winter's two premier free agents, further evidence that the days of really big ticket deals were a think of the past.
 
But there are always exceptions to the rule and Dustin Pedroia represents one of them.
 
Though the deal isn't yet official, a baseball source confirmed that the Sox and Pedroia have agreed in principle on a deal that will pay the second baseman $100 million over seven seasons, beginning in 2015.
 
Perhaps the only curious part of this deal is its timing. Why pay Pedroia now when he remains under control through the 2015 season (the new deal will supersede an option the Sox had for 2015)?
 
The Philadelphia Phillies could tell the Sox all about the inherent risks of giving a current player a long-term extension long before one is necessary. Philadelphia extended slugger Ryan Howard for five years and $125 million even though his former deal had almost two full seasons left.
 
Two years later, Howard is a shell of his former self, has suffered two majors injuries and still had three full seasons remaining after this one, making him the dubious winner of Baseball's Worst Contract, non-Alex Rodriguez division.
   
And make no mistake, there's risk here for the Red Sox. The manner in which Pedroia plays - all-out, all of the time - may be infectious and admirable but it also leaves him exposed to injuries.
 
At the end of this deal, Pedroia will be 38 and is unlikely to still play at such an elite level into his late 30s.
 
But the reason the Sox were comfortable giving out this kind of deal in the first place is because they know what - and whom - they're getting.
 
They don't have to worry that Pedroia will be overwhelmed by the pressure of the market, as Crawford was. They needn't worry that he'll fail to understand what baseball and the Red Sox mean to their fan base, as Gonzalez did. And they don't have concern that he'll one day lose his competitive edge, as Beckett seemingly did.
   
Pedroia is a known commodity, which makes the investment if not a guarantee, then certainly safer.
   
Pedroia has been in the organization since being selected in 2004. They've had a decade to get to know him on the field and off the field.
     
Now in his seventh full season, he's managed to remain free of controversy. The closest he came to overstepping his bounds came in April 2012 when he reflexively came to the defense of Kevin Youkilis, who had been blindsided by a comment from Bobby Valentine.
      
Before and after, Pedroia has played hard, played hurt, and most significantly, played well.
    
"He embodies everything we value as a player," said John Farrell.
    
With an annual average value of slightly more than $14 million, Pedroia will likely be overpaid in the final few years of the deal.
      
Then again, because Pedroia's value does not come from power or speed, he's likely to continue performing at an elite level for another half-dozen seasons.

"That's the kind of guy you give the money to," Terry Francona, Pedroia's manager for five seasons, told Sirius/XM Radio, "and you don't even think twice about it."

In other words, if it's possible for a $100 million safe bet, Pedroia probably comes closer than most.