Today, what seems like the majority of the details of a seven year, $100-million extension between the Boston Red Sox and Dustin Pedroia have been announced.
The Red Sox bought out seven more years of Pedroia’s potential free agent years in exchange for certainty at the position, and what appears to be at least a slight discount. It could even be a bigger discount in a financial environment that is handing out $100+ million contracts with some regularity compared to past years, and that may only get more expensive in a time when the Dodgers lead the charge on several free agents and also ostensibly have a ton of TV money to spend on free agents.
Extolling the virtues of the extension for the Red Sox would be quite redundant to a piece that Dave Cameron already wrote.
Rather, through a lense clouded by a marine layer resting somewhere between past Mariners teams’ bats and unmanned turf, I’d like to look at how this may affect future negotiations with Kyle Seager.
Kyle Seager and Dustin Pedroia have some differences. Kyle Seager and Dustin Pedroia have a lot of differences. Pedroia’s older and has considerably more facial hair. Seager’s bigger and plays a different position. Seager grew up on the East Coast and plays for a West Coast team. Pedroia grew up on the West Coast and plays for an East Coast team. Some of these things matter more than others, a thing I’ll agree to if we can all agree that facial hair belongs high on the list of priority items.
In some ways—probably more important ways than any of the aforementioned—Seager and Pedroia have been very similar as it relates to their ascent to the big leagues and their first two years at baseball’s highest level, save for about a handful of trophies in Pedroia’s favor.
In Pedroia’s first two full seasons, his age 23 and 24 seasons, he was worth a combined 10.1 WAR. He won the MVP in 2008 and also won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for second basemen, with an All-Star appearances as a relative afterthought. In those two years Pedroia amassed 1,307 plate appearances, and played defense that was well above-average by both contemporary metrics, and traditional measures, no matter how antiquated.
Seager’s first two full seasons, 2012 and 2013, have been his age 24 and 25 seasons. In those seasons he’s played a pretty good third base, if not Gold Glove quality, and has done so while learning the position largely on the fly. He was basically a league average hitter in a relatively limited stint in 2011, and has consistently gotten better, improving in areas that can be sustained. Seager has been worth 7.2 WAR in those two seasons and 1,075 plate appearances (On pace for 8.8 WAR at 1,307 plate appearances) at the time this is being written.
Neither signed to an enormous bonus as non-first-round picks, and neither has Scott Boras as their agent,
and if memory and internet research serves, Seager has no agent. Seager is represented by Proformance (h/t to the main man maqman), who also represents Jose Bautista, a star player signed to a team friendly, pre-free-agency extension.
The most informed of readers may have figured out that at some point between today’s extension and the end of Pedroia’s second full season, there were additional contract negotiations. Traditionally those negotiations are held with the intention of avoiding an arbitration hearing, but in Pedroia’s case, the fruits of the negotiation labor was a six year, $40.5 million extension that bought out two of Pedroia’s arbitration year, and that included a team option for a third free agent year (at $11 million).
Seager being a year older than Pedroia was, while perhaps a better hitter, and a slightly worse defender – though at a position of relative inexperience by necessity, not choice – Seager’s value parallels pretty well with Pedroia’s at the time he was approaching his third year of service time.
In mid-May I suggested that Seager could be in line for a five year, $25 million extension. While on the surface that may look crazy, it being barely 60 percent of Pedroia’s extension, it’s important to note the escalation of salaries related to perceived arbitration and free agent value. Without its sixth year, Pedroia’s contract extension was for five years and $30 million.
In the time between that post and today Seager has done nothing to reduce his value, and has likely increased it by sustaining, if not improving on his performance to that point in the season. The 5/$25M figure isn’t completely off base, but there’s certain room for that number to increase, and in today’s financial climate in baseball, an increase is likely to remain a bargain.
The first five years of Pedroia’s extension were structured as follows: 1.75/3.75/5.75/8/10. While an identical contract may get the job done, even a bump to 2/4/6/9/11 would only require less than 1.5 WAR per year to break even, and that’s under today’s not-yet-inflated rate of basically $5 million for a win above replacement in free agency.
The Mariners would have Seager under control for his age 26-30 seasons, and may be able to add an option to the end to sweeten the deal for the team.
So why this return to consternation at the news of a second extension for Pedroia? Because when Pedroia signed an extension before the 2009 season, especially one with a friendly team option and a reasonable buyout, Pedroia surrendered a lot of leverage to the Red Sox. Now four-and-a-half years later, Pedroia has signed a contract that figures to be relatively fair for the team, and something that approaches what his market value may be if he entered free agency today.
Check out this podcast I recorded with Harrison Crow