Why Dustin Pedroia’s contract makes no sense for Red Sox

Will Pedroia be worth his huge contract in 10 years? (AP Photo)

It’s said that greater risks lead to greater rewards. On Wednesday the Boston Red Sox took a great risk, finalizing an eight-year, $110 million contract extension that locks down the 2008 American League MVP, Dustin Pedroia.

For the Red Sox, this extension is a bad deal. Many high-profile, long-term contracts don’t work out. The problem with long-term contracts is that they are signed too late in a player’s career, when they’re past their prime. That sticks the team with an old, underproductive player through the end of his career, when injury risk is up and numbers are typically down.

In 2011, three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols signed a blockbuster 10-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. At the time he was 32-years old. That means Pujols is signed through his 41st birthday in 2021, an old age for baseball players.

The same is true for Alex Rodriguez, who signed a 10-year, $275 million extension for the Yankees at age 32 as well. He’ll enter free agency at 42-years of age.

Can Pedroia hold up for the length of his long-term deal? (AP Photo)
Can Pedroia hold up for the length of his long-term deal? (AP Photo)

During his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols was most definitely a stud. In 2008, at age 28, the first-baseman hit an astounding .357 over the course of the season. The next season he smacked 47 home runs and drove in 135 runs. In 2010 and 2011, at ages 30 and 31, Pujols’ numbers slid a bit but remained respectable.

Since signing with the Angels, Pujols’ stats have dropped even farther. In 96 games this year he’s hitting .254 with 17 home runs. In comparison, Miguel Cabrera leads the majors in average, batting .358, while Chris Davis leads the home run race with 37.

Albert’s Angels appear to have an All-Star roster on paper, with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, and Howie Kendrick, but they’re five games below .500 and 11 games back in the AL West.

Pedroia’s Red Sox’s arch-nemesis, the New York Yankees, made the long-term extension mistake before the 2008 season when they agreed to an extension with Alex Rodriguez. Early in his career A-Rod looked like a no-brainer Hall of Famer, who many thought would become the all-time home run king. Whether or not he will see Cooperstown is now in question, while he sits 115 home runs shy of tying Bonds.

Rodriguez’s on-field play declined in nearly every category since his extension. In the year before his extension, 2007, the 31-year old third-baseman hit .314, drilled 54 home runs, and plated a whopping 156 runners. In 2012 he hit .272 with just 18 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Steroids scandals and injuries caught up to the three-time American League MVP. In 2009 A-Rod admitted to steroid use. This year he’s been linked to steroids again, this time in the Biogenesis case out of Miami, which Ryan Braun was recently suspended over. Rumors are circulating that Rodriguez could be banned from baseball regarding the current scandal.

Rodriguez has also been plagued by a recurrent groin and labrum injury. He missed 40 games in 2009 and 2012, over 60 in 2011, and has yet to play this year.

The Phillies probably regret giving Howard that $ eal. (AP)
The Phillies probably regret giving Howard that $125 million extension. (AP)

Phillies’ slugger Ryan Howard inked a five-year, $125 million extension with his team at the start of the 2010 season. The length of his extension isn’t a big mistake by the Phillies, giving him $25 million a year is. Since then Howard has fallen short of expectations.

In the first half of his 10-year career which started in 2004, Howard posted impressive numbers. The 2006 National League MVP  hit .313 and jacked 58 home runs that season, at age 26. He slammed 45+ home runs in each of the next three years. In 2006, 2008, and 2009 Howard drove in his share of base-runners with more than 140 each of those years.

Since age 29 in 2009, arguably his best season, Howard’s production has sputtered. His .279 average in 2009 fell to .253 by 2011 and was down to .219 in 2012. (Howard only played 71 games in 2012 due to multiple injuries.) Home runs have fallen drastically since his 2010 extension. The Phillie hit 45 home runs in 2009 but only 31 in 2010, and 11 in 80 games so far this year. These numbers aren’t with $25 million annually.

The Red Sox should have agreed to a shorter deal with Pedroia, say six years, which would lock him down until age 36. A shorter extension reduces the Red Sox’s risk of ending up like the Angels or Yankees, a team stuck with an older, slumping star. The Phillies’ extension with Howard is only bad because of the amount he makes, but Pedroia’s average salary is over $10 million less than Howard’s. Luckily for the Phillies, if Howard doesn’t improve, they can dump him after two more seasons.

If Pedroia is still playing well after those six years, extend him again, just like the Phillies can do if Howard improves. After being a Red Sock for his whole career, why would Pedroia go sign with another team for his last years? Howard is likely to re-sign with the only team he’s known if the option is on the table for him as well.

How do you feel about long-term, expensive contracts? Do they ever work out? Should the Red Sox have extended Pedroia’s contract eight more years?

 

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12 thoughts on “Why Dustin Pedroia’s contract makes no sense for Red Sox

  1. Matt, there is more here than the big salary. Pedroia is a fan favorite and plays hard everyday. That will keep the seats filled and also great for marketing in the long term. You also have to look at the back end of this deal and why the Red Sox committed to Dustin; PED free, good role model and has a winning attitude.

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  2. You are judging the contract based on the failures of other players. How about some analysis of Pedroia and how he will perform over the contract???

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  3. Peter, I’m not going to speculate about Pedroia’s future because I can’t predict it. He’s played well so far but so did the others before their deals and they’ve underperformed since.

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  4. Brian, I know Dustin’s never been linked to PEDs and is a fan favorite. He’s a good role model and I agree with extending him, just for a shorter period. If his performance declines like the others he won’t be a fan favorite or valuable marketing tool. A-Rod once was both of those but is no more. Decreased performance = decreased popularity

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    • I don’t necessarily agree with the whole Decreased performance = decreased popularity. You’re telling me if Jeter came back and started struggling he would be unpopular amongst the fan base? A-Rod is unpopular because of all the headlines he makes off the field. You won’t see homegrown talent (i.e. the Jeters, Joey Vottos, Buster Poseys, and Joe Mauers of MLB) decrease in popularity if they struggle. It’s because they steer clear of the TMZ like headlines that embarrass the team.

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      • If Jeter came back and started costing the Yankees games his popularity would go down. Look at Bobby Bowden at FSU, he built the football program and won two national championships. In the mid and late 2000s, FSU had to push him out because he couldn’t do it anymore due to age. FSU wasn’t contending in the ACC and ticket sales were down because the team wasn’t winning. Fans wanted him gone and wanted a coach that would restore the program. Now that FSU is a serious contender again ticket sales are up and the fan base is rejuvenated.

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      • Not sure how large of a reason it is but it probably contributes. Most people were 99% sure Bonds was on steroids but San Fran fans still rooted for him anyway.

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  5. Pedroia’s contract numbers do go down over the course of the contract as Brian noted. Plus, is money really a big issue for teams in MLB? The Red Sox are paying Stephen Drew $9.5 million and Ryan Dempster $13.5 million this year. I think everyone can agree that neither are worth that money but the Red Sox wanted them on their team so they had to overpay to get them. It happens a lot in MLB because there’s no hard salary cap.

    Also, you forgot to address the counter argument. Two case studies are Jeter’s 10-year $180 million deal when he was 27 and Manny Ramirez’s 8 year $160 million deal when he was 29. Jeter continued his spectacular production while Ramirez was a constant Silver Slugger award winner and also won 2 World Series. If you want more recent, then look at Miguel Cabrera’s 8-year $150 million deal in 2008. Sure he was 25, but if you look at reports, he’s in line for another fat extension at age 30. Don’t tell me that after a year where he won the Triple Crown (and is still crushing it this year) you wouldn’t give him a big extension to keep him in Detroit for his career.

    The last thing teams want is to let a team icon walk at the end of his big deal and he comes back and sticks it to his team the year after. That’s every team’s greatest fear. That’s why teams lock up their guys for a long time.

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    • Pedroia’s salary goes down after the midpoint of his extension but what’s to say his numbers don’t start going south next year? It happened with Howard, Pujols, and Rodriguez.

      As for the counter argument, what’s Ramirez done lately? where’s Jeter been? Will he be the same after his injury?

      Of course you don’t want to get beaten by a guy who used to be yours but you don’t want to be stuck with him either. That’s why shorter extensions and extending again after makes sense

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  6. Pedroia’s contract makes perfect sense for the Sox,,if he hit the open market he would command somewhere around 18-20 million a year after 2015, instead they get him for about 14 million, and he stated he doesn’t want to leave and go anyplace. He plays hurt in cases where most players now days whine on the bench about being hurt (Buchholz). He will average SLIGHTLY more then Shane (say it aint so) Victorino is making for the next 3 years. Pedroia is 30 years old and this contract will take him thru his career and give security to him and his family. He is the face of the franchise, and he is paid well for busting his butt for the team in the past and he will play the same in the future. If they pay him for a few years of low production at the end of his career, so be it. he cant be any less productive then A-Rod or Jeter has been this year and will be in the future

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  7. Another big difference here is that Pujols, A-Rod, and Ryan are typically looked at as sluggers, big men. Yes, Pedroia can hit the long ball, but he’s got a very different style of play from those guys. And if his numbers do decline, he becomes a role player who can give younger infielders a day of rest and be a leader in the clubhouse a la Varitek. I think that character/leadership side is a big part of this.

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