Allow me to get something off my chest: Dustin Pedroia does not owe the Red Sox a penny, and I hope he collects every last cent of the $25 million remaining on the final two years of his contract.
With Andrew Luck retiring and forfeiting more than $58 million in future salary, some have suggested Pedroia should do the Red Sox a solid and just walk away from the final two guaranteed years on his eight-year, $110 million contract if he's indeed finished, as we all suspect.
Pedroia didn't sound quite ready to hang up his spikes when he met with reporters in Colorado on Tuesday while sporting crutches, but he's realistic about his chances.
"(The doctor) said once you get all the strength back, your knee will tell you if you can play baseball or if that's it," Pedroia told reporters. "This time, I'm taking it by steps, man. It would be nice to not hurt first and then be able to do normal life stuff and then if that's the case, we'll jump to the main goal, so one step at a time and hopefully it works out."
Pedroia went on to detail how he will need a knee replacement one day, but he's too young to take that step now. It's clear that his quality of life will be permanently affected, with Pedroia noting that he recently threw batting practice to his sons, "and the next three days, I was not moving."
How did Pedroia end up this way? It wasn't through any personal negligence, but in service to the Boston Red Sox. The 2017 Manny Machado slide that many blame for landing him in this predicament was only part of the story. The truth is, Pedroia had sacrificed his body to the point of lasting damage before Machado ever came in spikes high.
According to Spotrac's injury database, Pedroia has spent 437 days on the disabled/injured list since 2015 alone with all manner of hamstring, wrist, and knee injuries. He missed more than half of the 2010 season after fouling a ball off his foot and breaking it, he played the entire 2013 season with a torn thumb ligament that required surgery, and his offseasons since have generally required one procedure or another.
When he signed that eight-year extension in 2013, it was mocked in some corners for being too team-friendly. Only months later, after all, contemporary and rival Robinson Cano would sign with the Mariners for 10 years and $228 million. "What do I care?" Pedroia liked to say. "I'm rich as (expletive)."
Given Pedroia's body type (small) and playing style (all out), the Red Sox must've suspected they wouldn't see a return on the final years of their investment. He turns 38 during the 2021 season and there were only so many miles on those legs.
The surgeries he has endured since 2017 — from cartilage restoration to arthroscopies to bioplasties — paint the picture of a knee that's hanging together with yarn (and for a time, cement). If you made that sacrifice for your job, would you then decline the final two years of your guaranteed salary to help out an employer that profited off your sacrifice? No? Then why should he?
"Going through rehab processes is tough," Pedroia said in response to a question about Luck. "You get opinions, you hear everything, so you've just got to try to put your head down and do it. It definitely wears you out."
While Pedroia could agree to some sort of settlement with the Red Sox if he decides his career is over, this generally isn't how baseball works. The Mets still owed David Wright $27 million after he unofficially retired last September, though insurance covered part of it. Prince Fielder spent more than a year on the Rangers' 40-man roster after a neck injury ended his career in 2016, collecting the more than $100 million remaining on his contract. The Yankees paid Alex Rodriguez $27 million to retire in 2016.
Why should Pedroia be any different? Answer: he shouldn't. He earned that money, it's fully guaranteed, and my guess is he'd trade it in a second for two good knees. But that's not an option.
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