Red Sox: Could this be Dustin Pedroia’s last year in Boston?

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia /

The Boston Red Sox will have a tough decision after next year if their second baseman struggles to stay healthy again.

He’s been one of the faces of Boston sports for years now. He’s given every ounce of effort he has to the Boston Red Sox, and has played the game he loves with passion, devotion and fire that few in baseball can match.

Yet, the fan favorite may be forced out the door and out of a job, should he endure one more injury-riddled season. Not retired designated hitter David Ortiz. Not superstar quarterback Tom Brady.

Dustin Pedroia. The undersized warrior who plays with his emotions on his sleeve, will never willingly walk away from baseball. However, despite his production and high level of play, the 34-year-old veteran may find himself on borrowed time in Boston. While Pedroia has a contract that expires in 2022, the Red Sox may not be inclined to pay $12-$15 million per year for a second baseman who can’t finish a full season healthy.

It’s extremely unlikely the Red Sox would cut him under any circumstance, and very bleak if Boston would be interested in moving Pedroia at all. The veteran still serves as a positive influence and leader in the clubhouse — even if some fans think otherwise — and still produces at a high level when healthy.

Last year, Pedroia had a .293/.369/.392 slash line with seven home runs and 62 runs batted in through 105 games.

Why would Boston consider trading their veteran star?

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While his numbers have been very good each year, his injuries pile throughout the season — sometimes detrimental to the Red Sox’ playoff race. Even when Pedroia has been on the field, sacrificing his body late in the season, he rarely looks healthy. The injuries have certainly piled up on the star’s career, hampering his ability throughout each season.

A foot injury shortened Pedroia’s 2010 season to just 75 games, but he pushed through.

In 2014, he missed 27 games, needed wrist surgery toward the end of the season and posted his lowest batting average (.278) since becoming an everyday player in Boston.

The following year, Pedroia was limited to 93 games with a nagging right hamstring injury.

After a relatively healthy 2016 season — minus a banged up knee — Pedroia then experienced knee inflammation and was put on the disabled list twice in August 2017. The knee plagued Pedroia’s season before he finally underwent surgery in October. It’s unknown what level of production he’ll be able to contribute in 2018.

As the serious injuries pile for Pedroia, his body is slowly breaking down. Even if numbers suggest he still has plenty left in the tank, he must prove that he can produce at a high level for a full season and post season.

When the Red Sox have needed him most, Pedroia has failed to put together a strong showing. He has hit .204 over the last 26 playoff games.

Paying over $10 million for a player who isn’t on the field healthy, or at all, can handcuff a franchise from using the money elsewhere. In today’s MLB, a team needs to save as much money possible to even afford one-inning relief pitchers, let alone position players.

Speaking of committing money elsewhere, the Red Sox will have a numerous amount of decisions this offseason, and future ones too. This offseason alone consists of Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz and possibly David Price.

Additionally, if the Red Sox want to go after any prized stars in free agency — mainly Manny Machado or Bryce Harper — they’ll have to strategize the team’s entire payroll to do so.

Another potential factor on Pedroia’s time in Boston is highly regarded prospect Michael Chavis. Chavis continues to improve throughout each promotion in the Minor Leagues, and is viewed by some as Boston’s future second baseman. While prospects are never guaranteed to reach their potential, if Chavis hits his way to the Major Leagues, the Red Sox will have no choice but to play him; Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers both proved that.

If the Red Sox were to part ways with Pedroia, they’d have to find a destination that best suits his interest. He has a limited no-trade clause that can veto trades to certain teams. However, a trade to a National League team such as the LA Dodgers could be a very desirable cast away to Pedroia’s remaining years of his career, since he’s from California.

Speculation of a trade for the second baseman is premature in spring training, and he could bounce back and have one of the healthiest, most productive years of his career in 2018, silencing any trade rumors.

Or he could have another Pedroia-esque season: produce until your body breaks and your team sorely misses your presence, further sparking speculation on the MLB rumor hot stove.

Pedroia loves Boston, and most of Boston loves him back. Even beyond last season’s tirade and lack of leadership during the drama with Baltimore and Manny Machado, Pedroia still serves a vital part to this team’s success. Losing Pedroia would be a very sad day for many fans and people in the Red Sox organization.

But business is business, and the Red Sox have many business decisions to make in order to better the team for the future. Contending with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees — two teams who are arguably in better financial situations than the Red Sox — is no easy task.

The Red Sox have shown they’re familiar with parting ways with beloved baseball stars; just ask Nomar Garciaparra.

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Goodbyes are never easy, and often messy, but the Red Sox may be headed their again after this season.