Red Sox offseason primer: Second base

BOSTON -- The trainers know. So do the manager, general manager, owners, teammates and presumably his wife, Kelli. Somehow, Dustin Pedroia swears them all to secrecy. If he won't tell you he's hurt, they sure as hell won't, either.

That has been an operating principle ever since Pedroia first strutted into the Boston Red Sox clubhouse in 2006, and there have been rare deviations since. Pedroia was ticked off a year ago last May when the Boston Herald first got wind that his thumb injury was serious, and the closest he came to admitting that his wrist injury this spring was an ongoing issue is when a reporter framed it in terms of not whether he was injured, but how much better he would be if he was healthy.

It's only when the club has to admit he needs surgery that the rest of the world learns what Pedroia plays through. In 2013, he played in 160 regular-season games, then 16 more in the postseason, with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb that was surgically repaired after the season. Check the archives; other players with such injuries almost invariably have surgery immediately.

This past season, Pedroia injured his wrist in the home opener, then played in 133 games before the Sox finally acknowledged he needed another operation and had to be shut down.

He has had procedures done on his hands in each of the last three seasons, and they have taken a toll on his offensive production. Some have questioned whether he will ever become the dominant force he once was. Others, like third-base coach Brian Butterfield, call Pedroia the toughest player they've ever seen and suggest you wait to see him back at full strength next spring before you rush to judgment.

The question the Sox cannot answer with full confidence yet is how healthy Pedroia will be. GM Ben Cherington said he expects a complete recovery. Cherington also said that Pedroia is one of the last people on earth he would bet against.

Let that serve as intro, then, to the fifth of our position-by-position breakdowns, second base:

Red Sox second basemen performance this season (major league rankings):

  • Batting average: .274, 8th

  • On-base percentage: .336, 8th

  • Slugging percentage: .376, 13th

  • Home runs: 9, 20th

  • Extra-base hits: 50, 11th

  • Doubles: 41, 3rd

  • Offensive WAR: 3.5, 7th

  • Wins Above Replacement: 5.5, 3rd (tie)

  • Errors: 5, 1st (tie)

  • Total Zone Runs Above Average: 14, 1st (tie)

Second basemen used, offensive stats:

Dustin Pedroia, 133 G, .278/.337/.376/.714 7 HRs, 53 RBI; Mookie Betts, 14, .291/.371/.418/.789 1, 6; Brock Holt, 11, .147/.256/.265/.521 1, 1; Jemile Weeks 5, .294/.368/.471/.839 0, 2; Jonathan Herrera 5, .357/.333/.357/.690 0, 3; Kelly Johnson 1, .000.

Best performance: Despite the drop in production, Pedroia still posted a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 4.8, the highest on the team, due in great measure to the spectacular defense he played despite his injuries. Pedroia committed just two errors all season and showed no drop-off in range.

Biggest disappointment: Pedroia qualifies here, as well, because in a season in which the Sox gambled and lost at three positions -- catcher, center field and shortstop -- did not have a healthy Shane Victorino and played with a diminished Mike Napoli, Pedroia's drop in production was keenly felt. Of his myriad skills, hitting one-handed proved even beyond his capacity.

Biggest surprise: He figures to factor more as an outfielder going forward, but 21-year-old Betts made a strong first impression as a big-leaguer.

Outlook for 2015: Pedroia is 31. He is signed through 2021, and is owed roughly $97 million on a contract that tops out at $16 million at its highest point, a very team-friendly deal. The Sox need him healthy.

Potential free agent targets: Not applicable. This is not a position the Sox will be looking to sign a free agent.

Potential trade targets: Not applicable. The Sox are not looking for an upgrade here.

Prospects in the system: Sean Coyle. The right-handed hitting Coyle, who is 22 and also played some third base, put up some impressive numbers in Double-A Portland, including 16 home runs, and is playing in the Arizona Fall League.

Scout's take: Even with all the injuries, I'll take Pedroia in a heartbeat, especially for what is a pretty good price. You know what effort you're going to get from him; every single ounce is what you're going to get. If the wrist is fixable, and I hear it's not as complicated as what Ryan Braun is going through, I'm all-in on Dustin Pedroia.