The Red Sox and four-time All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia announced Monday that Pedroia has ended his rehab assignment at Double-A Portland and been placed on the 60-day injured list. Pedroia, who has been limited to nine major-league games and 34 plate appearances since the beginning of the 2018 season, acknowledged that he’s “not sure” whether he’ll be able to play again.
Alex Cora and Dustin Pedroia were teammates from 2006-2008. The skipper talks about Pedroia's injury status in the @Amica Alex Cora Pregame Press Conference. https://t.co/CRukEiNRjn pic.twitter.com/NCAnZtYTJi— NESN (@NESN) May 27, 2019
The 35-year-old infielder admitted that “it’s to a point now where my knee is not allowing me to play every day.” That’s a discouraging revelation for a guy who has tried so many different methods to get back on the field: He’s undergone two major knee cartilage surgeries since the end of the 2016 season — a meniscectomy and chondroplasty following the ‘16 campaign, and a complete cartilage restoration after the ‘17 season — and he said Monday that he doesn’t want to undergo another surgery, as the next operation that’s been reccommended would affect his quality of life.
Pedroia plans to leave the team for the time being and will take an indefinite break from baseball, though he said Monday that he will provide the team with “whatever they need” in terms of moral support and advice, whether that’s from a distance — FaceTime was mentioned during the press conference as an avenue for him to provide support to his teammates — or in the clubhouse at some point in the future. While he didn’t explicitly say that he doesn’t plan to play again, Pedroia — who has two seasons remaining on his six-year deal — did acknowledge that “my knee would never heal,” and considering today’s news along with the fact that he’s played so little over the past two seasons, the odds of him returning to the big leagues for anything more than a ceremonial send-off (which will be near impossible at any point after this season due to MLB’s new September roster rules, which go into effect next year) seem to be extraordinarily low.
If there’s a silver lining that’s to be taken from this news, it’s that the Red Sox have a multitude of quality options at second base. Former All-Star utility man Brock Holt — who has a concerning injury history of his own but returned from the injured list on Monday — had a very strong 2018 season, posting a .774 OPS while starting 49 games at second base, and he will likely see regular action there going forward. Third-baseman-turned-utility-infielder Michael Chavis has had a very good rookie season, hitting for an .897 OPS while playing in 27 games at second, and he’ll continue to get opportunities there despite the fact that it’s not his natural position. 2018 World Series hero Eduardo Núñez has struggled thus far in 2019, posting a .493 OPS with just 18 hits (four for extra bases) and two walks in 92 plate appearances. But he’s a decent defender at second base, having played in 15 games there this year, and he’s a better player than his offensive numbers this season would indicate.
With all of that said, they may want to add more depth at the position down the stretch — like they did last season when they acquired Ian Kinsler — if they determine that they’re going to be serious contenders. It all depends on whether they trust Chavis, who had never played in a game at second base until this season, to play reliable defense in such consequential games.
If this is it for Pedroia, he’ll leave a very strong legacy behind. He was considered the heart and soul of Red Sox World Series teams in 2007 and 2013 (and also made brief contributions to the ‘18 World Series club). He won the AL Rookie of the Year in ‘07 and the AL MVP in ‘08, and he was a four-time Glove Glover, a four-time All-Star, and a Silver Slugger in ‘08. He had six seasons with a WAR over 5.0 (as calculated by Baseball Reference) between 2008-16, including a ridiculous 8.0 WAR season in 2011. Judging by some metrics, he’s a borderline Hall of Fame candidate: according to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS scoring system, he’s the 20th-best second baseman in MLB history and has stronger credentials than numerous players at the position who are already in the Hall. Judging by his seven-year peak WAR (42.4), he is the 16th-best player at the position in league history, and he is just short of the 44.4 seven-year peak average among the 20 second basemen already in the Hall. Going by Bill James’ Hall of Fame monitor stat, he’s just short of being considered a “likely Hall of Famer,” as his 94 score is just below the 100 rating for a player who’s likely to be inducted in Cooperstown.