Dustin Pedroia doesn't owe the Red Sox a damn thing.
The news that the team traded nondescript prospect C.J. Chatham to the Phillies for future considerations on Monday kicked off another round of teeth-gnashing in some corners of the media and fanbase that Pedroia is single-handedly hamstringing the 40-man roster.
The all-time franchise great is entering the final year of a $110 million extension that looked like a bargain in 2013 but now resembles little more than ballast. He's still on the 40-man because his contract is guaranteed and no one wants to kick him out the door. That's how baseball works.
The way some fans see it, Pedroia should "do the right thing" and retire so as not to clog a sacred roster spot, as if his presence is all that's keeping the team that just finished with baseball's fourth-worst record from building a contender during an offseason when it has barely signed anyone.
As long as the 40-man includes the likes of Chris Mazza, Jeffrey Springs, and Colten Brewer (cumulative 2020 ERA: 6.28) to name three, it's hard to argue that Pedroia is denying anyone of note their rightful place. I would've included Chatham on that list, but the Red Sox just dumped him.
And even if he is, there's an easy solution: The Red Sox can release him. There's absolutely zero reason for Pedroia to retire and forfeit the final $12 million on his contract, especially when one considers why he's not playing.
Pedroia isn't home in Arizona limping around after his kids because he's lazy and uninterested in living up to his commitments. It's not because he's some kind of Kyrie Irving prioritizing maskless birthday parties and God knows what else over honoring his contract.
It's because he suffered a series of injuries on the job that will affect him for the rest of his life. Pedroia has already undergone at least five knee surgeries, and more await him, including what he assumes will eventually be a knee replacement.
A dirty slide by Manny Machado in 2017 started this ball rolling, but in reality, Pedroia suffering a career-ending injury was inevitable. If Machado hadn't gotten him, maybe a hit-by-pitch, or collision at the plate, or awkward slide would've taken him down instead.
That's what happens when you're 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds and play all-out for more than a decade. Some players say they left it all on the field, but Pedroia meant it. He'll be hobbled for the rest of his life, and I suspect if he could do it all again, about the only thing he'd change is that he'd spike Machado in the face before that cleat got anywhere near his knee.
The point is, Pedroia earned his contract and he is entitled to every cent of it. If he wants to "do right" by the organization and reach a settlement before officially retiring, that's his decision and his alone. If the team decides his place in the organization is simply untenable, Chaim Bloom and Co. can easily rectify that situation by setting him free.
In the meantime, the 40-man roster can handle his presence. Three-quarters of the players on it today will be long gone by the time the Red Sox are good again, anyway.