Money Pedroia's focus? We'll soon see
Bonus notes from Saturday's broadcast of the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
If second baseman Dustin Pedroia signs an extension soon with the Boston Red Sox — even an extension for more than $100 million — it will be safe to say that he is not all about the money.
Because if Pedroia were all about the money, he would wait — wait a few months for Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano to sign his new deal, maybe even wait to become a free agent himself after the 2015 season.
The Red Sox actually don’t need to act on Pedroia; they’ve got him signed for $10 million next season and hold an $11 million club option on him for '15. But Yahoo first reported that the two sides are discussing an extension, and it’s easy to understand why the team would want to lock up Pedroia as quickly as possible.
Fear of Cano.
Yes, Pedroia’s price will rise the minute Cano signs his deal, whether it’s with the Yankees before he becomes a free agent or on the open market. If Cano gets $180 million to $200 million, then Pedroia can safely argue that he should be close to that, at the very least.
Since 2007, Pedroia has batted .307 with an .837 OPS, Cano .305 with an .866 OPS. Defensively, Pedroia currently rates the edge — he leads all major-league second basemen in John Dewan’s plus-minus ratings this season, with 15 plays above the number that an average fielder would make. Cano is at plus-five.
Now, what if Pedroia holds off even longer to sign his next deal, all the way until he becomes a free agent after '15? He obviously would risk injury. He also would hit the market at 32, an age at which most players start to decline.
On the other hand, salaries for star players historically increase sharply. Fewer and fewer such players are hitting the open market, adding to the demand. And industry revenues keep growing, and almost certainly will be greater in '15 than they are today.
In other words, Pedroia could hit the jackpot, a far bigger jackpot than he will receive if he signs an extension soon.
Of course, $100 million plus is not a bad little jackpot, either. But if Pedroia accepts such a deal, it won’t be just about the money. Not when he can wait, even if only a few months, and get so much more.
NO LONGER LACKING
Right-hander John Lackey failed to produce his seventh straight quality start on Saturday, allowing four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees. Still, his turnaround remains one of the season’s better stories.
As I said during the broadcast, Lackey was in far worse condition than anyone realized in 2011, when he was one of the goats of the Sox’s disappointing season. He couldn’t throw between starts, diminishing his arm strength and command, and required Tommy John surgery that October.
“When the doctor sees your MRI at the end of the year and asks what the heck were you doing pitching, that kind of lets you know how you’re doing,” Lackey said.
Lackey finished 2011 with a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts, then missed all of '12 recovering from surgery. He since has lost weight, enabling him to better repeat his delivery, according to Sox manager John Farrell. He also continues to gain arm strength, and entered the All-Star break fourth in the AL with a 2.78 ERA.
The difference is not simply that Lackey is healthy — he said that he also is drawing from his experience.
“After being around a long time, I kind of know what I’m doing,” he said, smiling.
WHY KURODA SAID “NO” TO BOSTON
Two years ago, when Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda was a member of the Dodgers, he invoked his no-trade clause to veto deals to both the Red Sox and Tigers. The Sox responded to his rejection by making an ill-fated trade for left-hander Erik Bedard.
I asked Kuroda on Friday why he declined to join two different contenders, and he responded through his interpreter that if you only play for a team in August and September, it is not as meaningful as being with a club from spring training until the end of the season.
Some fans likely will take exception with Kuroda’s rationale, but it’s difficult to fault a guy for his loyalty and desire to stay part of a team.
PLAYING THE MARKET, RED SOX STYLE
The Red Sox’s July 31 strategy is evolving according to developments, the latest being the mystery surrounding Clay Buchholz and likely season-ending shoulder injury to Andrew Bailey. The team already has traded for left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, and now must weigh whether to add a starter and/or another reliever.
As general manager Ben Cherington told reporters on Friday, much will depend upon how the Sox view the readiness of their younger pitchers — lefty Drake Britton and righties Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. The Sox don’t want a rental — they never really pursued Cubs righty Matt Garza — and they’re also reluctant to tear up their farm system for a pitcher under greater long-term control.
White Sox righty Jake Peavy might make sense — he is owed just under $20 million through 2014, and presumably would cost less in talent. In any case, the Red Sox are in a fascinating spot. They intended this season to be a stepping-stone, and now must balance their desire to win with their desire to continue building.
LOVE THIS STORY
Yankees infielder Luis Cruz needed a fresh start after the Dodgers designated him for assignment on June 28. He spoke with his wife, Luz Maria, and said that if he cleared waivers, he wanted to become a free agent rather than report to Triple A with the Dodgers.
The risk, of course, was that Cruz would be out of work for several weeks — he had batted only .127 with a .344 OPS in 128 plate appearances for the Dodgers. But his wife told him, “Do what you want to do.”
Well, on July 2, the day Cruz cleared waivers, he was at Disneyland celebrating his son Luis’ third birthday. His agent, John Boggs, called him and said, “Pack your bags, you’re going to the New York Yankees to play shortstop.”
Cruz took an 8 a.m. flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis the next day, and was in the Yankees’ lineup that night.
LOVE THIS ONE, TOO
Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley had an interesting exchange with GM Brian Cashman after the Yankees acquired him from the Mariners on Feb. 13 for outfielder Abraham Almonte.
Cashman, noting that Kelley had been designated for assignment, asked the pitcher, “Why didn’t the Mariners want you anymore?” Kelley responded that he didn’t know. Cashman then said, “I gave up a good prospect for you. Don’t let me down.”
Sounds a bit harsh, but Kelley said he loved Cashman’s honesty. And now, after recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, Kelley is holding opponents to a .660 OPS while striking out 51 and walking only 13 in 34 2/3 innings.
No, he isn’t letting Cashman down.
SOX’S BOGAERTS: COMING SOON?
The Red Sox have scouted Phillies third baseman Michael Young, but they might have an even more intriguing alternative at Triple A — their top prospect, infielder Xander Bogaerts.
Manager John Farrell told the Fox broadcasters Saturday that it was “not unrealistic” to think that Bogaerts could make an impact in the majors this season, adding, “There is a groundswell growing a little bit for him.”
Shortstop Stephen Drew returned from a hamstring injury Saturday. But third baseman Jose Iglesias, who has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, might finally be hitting an offensive rut. And third baseman Will Middlebrooks has only a .321 on-base percentage at Triple A.
Bogaerts, 20, began the season at Double A, and is batting .252 with an .802 OPS (five points lower than Middlebrooks) since moving to Triple A. He has played 29 games at shortstop for Pawtucket, two at third.