The 2015 season has seen the emergence of a new, young core for the Red Sox. After a disastrous first half, Boston has vastly improved since the All-Star Break, and the team's strong play is largely the result of the growth shown by youngsters like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.
While David Ortiz has also rediscovered his home-run bashing form, Boston's impressive second half has largely come without longtime sparkplug Dustin Pedroia. For yet another season, injuries have hampered Pedroia's influence on the club's performance. That the Red Sox have thrived without their veteran second baseman in the lineup of late shouldn't necessarily reflect poorly on Pedroia, but it does underscore his waning impact in Boston.
On a positive note, when Pedroia has been on the field this season, he's performed quite well. The 32-year-old is hitting .301/.361/.464 with 12 home runs and a 123 wRC+ over 383 plate appearances for the Red Sox. That's no small contribution, and it's the best Pedroia's batted since the 2011 campaign by quite some margin -- imagine how well things would have gone in this second half with a healthy Pedroia?
With all the injuries that have slowed Pedroia in recent years, his contract is no longer the steal it initially appeared to be. The Red Sox will pay Pedroia $95 million over the next six seasons, and he'll be 38 years old in 2021. For a club like Boston, the money isn't really an issue. Paying Pedroia an annual verage of $15.8 million for six straight years won't be the kind of financial burden that Robinson Cano's contract looks set to become, especially with the deep pockets that the team's owners possess, and the fact the total average annual value (for luxury tax purposes) is even lower still.
However, as Pedroia ages into his mid-thirties, one has to question if he'll simply be able to stay healthy enough for the Red Sox to rely on him as their starting second baseman. That Pedroia himself has spoken recently about the need to keep his body fresh during the course of a long season further highlights the issue at hand. For a player who has never hid his desire to play every single game, Pedroia's comments demonstrate a player who now realizes how important avoiding injury will be for his longevity and overall performance.
All these doubts about Pedroia's long-term health have led some observers to wonder ifDave Dombrowski might be best served by dealing away the nine-year veteran this offseason. Not long ago, such an assertion would have been hard to fathom. Yet as the injuries have continued to pile up, the notion of trading Pedroia has grown from unimaginable to, at least, a possibility.
Should Dombrowski, long known for being aggressive and unsentimental on the trade market, strike a deal for Pedroia this winter?
While the thought has some merit, the timing just isn't right for the Red Sox. Unless the team wants to shift Betts back to second base and add an outfielder that can produce better than Pedroia, there really isn't a legitimate replacement on the roster. Brock Holt has served Boston well the past two seasons, but his second-half struggles indicate he's not ready for a full-time role just yet. Besides, Holt is, in many ways, the perfect safety net for an injury-prone player like Pedroia.
There are no solutions down on the farm, either. Yoan Moncada sure has the look of a prospect who can move quickly up the minor league ladder, but his biggest question mark is whether he'll be able to stick at second base. And even with all his talent, expecting Moncada to walk into a starting role at the MLB level in 2016 is wishful thinking -- even 2017 is still in the optimistic, though not impossible, realm.
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Instead, the Red Sox will be better served holding on to Pedroia for at least another season (and hopefully beyond that). Given his health issues, he's not likely to fetch the type of return Boston will want this offseason anyhow. Trading away Pedroia would also create the problem of having to replace him, even if he's no longer the perennial All-Star he once was.
In addition, his performance at the plate in 2015 has to provide some reason for optimism that he can still be that guy. With a .464 slugging percentage and .162 ISO, he's hitting for more power than he has in four years. The wrist issues that sapped his ability to drive the ball appear to be alleviated after he underwent surgery last offseason. And even the hamstring strain that shelved Pedroia for much of the second half came with a certain degree of flukiness.
There's no denying that Pedroia is a lesser version of the player he once was, especially if his diminished defensive prowess this season continues into the future. A day may come when the Red Sox see fit to trade Pedroia and move on from one of the most popular players in franchise history. Unless Dombrowski finds a way to improve the roster through dealing Pedroia, however, this winter isn't the time for such a trade.
No, the Red Sox will be better off with No. 15 at second base again in 2016, and just have to hope he can stay healthy. If he can't, well, then it's a good thing the Red Sox have depth at second.