This Date In Transactions History: Pedro Martinez

The 2003 season ended in heartbreak for the Red Sox, whose hopes of capturing their first World Series since 1918 were dashed in Game 7 of the ALCS, when Aaron Boone channeled his inner Bucky Dent and inherited a new nickname: Bleepin'.

You certainly couldn't blame Pedro Martinez for the Red Sox's shortcomings that year, though. Boston's longstanding ace was worth nearly 7.9 wins above replacement across 186 2/3 innings, pitching like a guy who really wanted his $17.5MM contract option picked up for the next season. Thing is, his option had already been exercised — on this day in 2003.

That's right: Boston picked up Pedro's option — the highest single-season salary for a pitcher in MLB history — about seven months prior to what would have otherwise been a November deadline. In addition to the usual risks (injury, decline) of exercising an option before it's necessary, consider that Martinez would turn 32 later that year and had already taxed his slender frame for nearly 1,900 career innings.

While we could debate the process, the result must be considered a success for Boston. The Red Sox rebounded from the disappointment of 2003 to finally capture that elusive World Series title in 2004, sweeping the Cardinals. Martinez did, in fact, begin a steady decline in 2004 (at least relative to his mid-career production), but the beginning of his decline phase was still worth an excellent 5.7 wins above replacement — or $17.7MM, according to fangraphs. Talk about an even exchange.

The Red Sox allowed the legend to walk via free agency after 2004 in a surprisingly unsentimental move for a team that was all too eager to keep one of the most popular players in franchise history only a year and a half earlier. They apparently knew that it's better to burn out than it is to rust, as the Mets absorbed the brunt of Pedro's iron-oxide accumulation in the form of a four-year contract from 2005-08.

That bold decision proved prudent, as did the bold move the Red Sox made on this date in 2003.

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8 Comments on "This Date In Transactions History: Pedro Martinez"

3 years 3 months ago

Pedro was ridiculously dominant in his prime years…if he had greater longevity, he would definitely be the most dominant pitcher of the modern ERA without debate.

3 years 3 months ago

 He sure did.  There was a several year span where he had the best record and the best peripherals of anyone pitching-possibly ever. 

Not only that, he clearly enjoyed his profession and was just a blast to watch.  And I think every pitch was designed to poke a finger in the Dodgers eye-they always thought he was too small to be a successful starting pitcher-and he proved them wrong.

3 years 3 months ago

This is kind of like how Glee was renewed for a third season during the first. Has anyone else had their options picked up this early?

3 years 3 months ago

its exactly like that, except so much cooler and easier to admit 

3 years 3 months ago

Lol. Glee.. My seven year old daughter loves that show too bad I can’t get her to watch a baseball game

3 years 3 months ago

Dan Duquette’s best move ever (I know about the Slocumb for Lowe & Varitek deal, that’s a strong #2). Pedro only cost the Sox Carl Pavano (decent pitcher who was initially supposed to be a franchise pitcher) and Tony Armas (the minor league pitcher….not the outfielder). And as heartless as Boston fans thought it was at the time, letting him go to the Mets made all the sense in the world. Too many innings for a fragile body and arm. The results proved the Sox right.

3 years 3 months ago

I miss Pedro!! He was extremely fun to watch and had two of the best consecutive seasons for any pitcher ever in 1999 and 2000, nearly 300 strikeouts both of those years. 

3 years 3 months ago

Watching baseball is not the same without Pedro going out there every 5 days.  A pure joy to watch and I don’t know if anyone will be the the same combination of athlete, competitor, and showman in my lifetime.  Glad I was able to see it.