Red Sox eye Dustin Pedroia deal

BOSTON -- While Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is optimistic about the club's unfinished offseason plans for free agency and the trade market, he also has some internal considerations brewing.

According to several league sources, the Red Sox have already decided it would be in their best interest to begin discussions this winter about a possible long-term contract extension with veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia, 29, still has two years remaining on his current six-year, $40.5 million deal. He's due $10 million in both 2013 and 2014, and the Red Sox have a club option for $11 million (with a $500,000 buyout) for 2015.

A league source indicated a potential extension for Pedroia isn't something the Red Sox are focused on right now because of all the other aspects they must address first. But talks with Pedroia are on the horizon, as the sides will make time for discussion at some point this offseason, sources said.

Cherington has said he likes the core of the current veteran players on the Red Sox's roster and would like to build the team around it, including Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The GM proved he's willing to stick with Boston's own by signing Ortiz earlier this month to a two-year deal worth $26 million, with up to $4 million more in incentives.

The Red Sox see Pedroia -- as they do with Ortiz -- as a cornerstone to the team and would like him to continue as a face of the franchise and lead it into the future.

After Pedroia earned the AL Rookie of the Year award and helped the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2007, he followed that up with the AL MVP award in 2008. The Red Sox decided to lock him up with a long-term contract prior to 2009.

Pedroia will earn $10 million in both 2013 and 2014 before a 2015 club option.

"Obviously that deal worked out well for the Red Sox and we hope Dustin's here for a long time," Cherington said Thursday during an interview on sports radio WEEI.

Another reason it would be in Boston's best interest to sign Pedroia to an extension now is the fact that New York Yankees star second baseman Robinson Cano will be a free agent after the 2013 season. His asking price should reach upward of $200 million.

If Pedroia has a better 2013 season than Cano does, it certainly would raise Pedroia's value moving forward.

The Detroit Tigers recently paid up to acquire 37-year-old veteran outfielder Torii Hunter for his leadership on and off the field. Despite the age difference, Pedroia is a similar type of leader. The Red Sox recognize that and would like him to stay in Boston for the long term.

Pedroia is not the only veteran the Red Sox could consider extending. Lester, who is looking to rebound from a career-worst season in 2012, has one year remaining (with a club option for 2014) on his current five-year, $30 million deal. The left-hander would need to return to form in 2013 for the Red Sox to consider an extension.

Based on the small sample size, it also wouldn't be a risk if Cherington and the Red Sox decided to lock up third baseman Will Middlebrooks for the long term, too. Middlebrooks has just 75 games of big league experience, but before he suffered a broken wrist on Aug. 10, the 24-year-old proved to be the real deal with a .288 average, 15 home runs and 54 RBIs as a rookie.

Cherington said Thursday he expects Boston's payroll to be among the highest in baseball at the start of the 2013 season. Currently there's only $45 million in guaranteed salaries on the books, but after some free-agent deals, along with some in-house signings and possible extensions, the Red Sox could find themselves near the top of the salary ladder again.