It was August 12 and Dustin Pedroia’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, had ventured to Fenway Park to talk contract for their player.
The meeting was far from the first of its kind. The Red Sox had shown interest in locking up their second baseman the offseason before, and continued to sporadically broach the subject with Pedroia’s representatives as the 2008 season unfolded. Both sides had carved out a sense of familiarity.
This time, however, it was the one person who wasn’t in the room who spoke the loudest.
While the two sides talked, Pedroia was torturing the Texas Rangers. One hit, then another, and another, and another, until finally there were five. For the Levinsons, the offensive outburst offered hope that the awkwardness of in-season negotiations could be truncated. Personal issues while playing a team game often don’t fit, and maybe this small sample size could jump-start the process.
There could have been the other point of view, however, that maybe this showed that if anybody could handle such distractions it was the guy who was getting five hits in the shadows of his big contract talks.
The night exemplified the curious case of Dustin Pedroia – looking at this player in just one light just isn’t an option.
It is because of Pedroia’s unique existence – a 5-foot-7 second baseman whose garage door is being held up by two season’s of congratulatory hardware courtesy Major League Baseball – that defining his monetary worth isn’t easy to do.
For better or worse, Pedroia has locked up his spot in baseball’s financial pecking order. He will make $40.5 million over the next six years, and another $10.5 million if the Red Sox pick up his 2015 option. Most importantly, when it comes to the all-important free-agent years, the team will have the opportunity to pay this year’s American League MVP $31 million over three years.
If you really want to make an attempt at identifying the other players among whom Pedroia might have fallen, you can look at Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, the Mets’ David Wright and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. All had similar service time as the Sox second baseman when inking their deals, with each arriving at similar yearly commitments and financial landing spots.
But take a closer gander at those guys – they are all statistic-making machines. Pedroia? Numbers, while not lacking in the infielder’s portfolio, clearly won’t be the sole basis of his ultimate value.
The easiest route would be to offer up Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler or Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays as the best comparisons. But neither Kinsler (five years, $22 million with a team option) or Hill (locked into one of the perceived most team-friendly deals in baseball at four years, $12 million with three team options) had contracts that would be acceptable by Pedroia’s standards.
As for some of the other players to have sacrificed some cash for security, Pedroia refused to go down their paths, which were laden with team options. The Yankees’ Robinson Cano had two such options, and so did Colorado reliever Manny Corpas and St. Louis hurler Adam Wainwright.
Then came those deals with three years controlled by the team, such the ones giving to Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria, Tampa Bay starter James Shields, Fausto Carmona, the Indians’ ace, and, of course, the Rays' Evan Longoria (under the control of Tampa Bay for nine years).
Pedroia wanted the easy feeling that those guys had garnered. But the perception that his confidence and cockiness would translate into having no problem going year to year was somewhat skewed. He wanted to worry about winning, not statistics, and a long-term deal would accomplish that goal.
Yet he also wasn’t comfortable being lumped into those riding the multiple team-option train. It was the Red Sox’ policy to not do these sorts of extensions without at least one team option, but two was going to be a deal-breaker for Pedroia.
So where would Pedroia fit?
From the player’s side of the negotiating table, the name that kept coming up was Derek Jeter of the Yankees. It was pointed out that, like Pedroia, Jeter had established himself while playing on those late 1990s New York teams without the benefit of the kind of stats being thrown up by the star shortstops of the time, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada and Alex Rodriguez.
Jeter had the intangibles that Pedroia was starting to ooze. It was no accident that the Sox second baseman made it a point to spend as much time with the Yankees’ captain during the 2008 All-Star Game, wanting to see how that pinstriped machine was made.
It was with this in mind that one of the first portions of the Pedroia contract to be broached and settled on was the escalator if he won another MVP. While his previous contract offered no pay-off for winning the award, if he does claim it again there will be a $2 million payday. And if he does it in 2014 or ’15, his option year also jumps up to $13 million with a $100,000 bonus to boot.
Pedroia understood making up as much money as he would have liked in exchange for the security most likely wasn’t going to be an option. But this allowed for an opportunity to define his worth to a certain degree.
To both sides’ credit, as difficult as it was to define Pedroia’s worth, the deal was consummated fairly quickly. After talking sporadically throughout the season (putting things on hold for the final two months), the first definitive offer was made in late October. By early November the parameters had been set.
A few votes here and there in the MVP race weren’t going to change anything. (“We made it clear to Sam and Seth (Levinson) by September – maybe mid-September, perhaps a bit earlier – that we thought Dustin was going to win the MVP. We were factoring that into our offers,” said Sox G.M. Theo Epstein.) With Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer adeptly taking the lead in the negotiations from the Sox’ side, and the Levinsons understanding the landscape, and wishes of his client, what could have been a complicated process unfolded semi-seamlessly.
And while Pedroia’s true financial worth might remain a mystery throughout the life of this contract, one thing that there is no doubt about is how the player feels going forward.
“I understood all that stuff,” Pedroia said. “I knew that if I would have gone year-to-year, yes, I probably would have made a lot more money. I understand that. Without a doubt. But I’m here in a place that I love. My family loves it. They treat us unbelievable. It’s like a family here. I’m happy with this. I’m extremely excited, my wife is excited, my parents, all my friends, my teammates. I want to be here. I want to play for the Red Sox. I don’t wan to play for anybody else. It just seemed right to do something.”