Xander Bogaerts debuted for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and has played in over 1,000 games for the team since. He’s in the top 25 all-time in Red Sox history for Runs, Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI and WAR. There is a good chance he’ll be top 10 all-time for all of these if he finishes his career with the team.
Bogaerts has made three All-Star teams, won three Silver Sluggers, and was 5th in AL MVP voting in 2019. He’s also won two World Series titles with Boston.
So what can the Red Sox give a player who has given them so much after the last 9+ seasons? The answer is clear: Bogaerts should get the team captaincy, a multi-year contract extension and a new position across the infield.
The Red Sox have a history of seasons with a team captain, and seasons without one. From 1969 to 1983, Carl Yastrzemski was the captain before no one was in 1984. Then Jim Rice became the captain from 1985-1989.
Boston did not have a team captain from 1990-2004. Then this happened…
The following season Jason Varitek was elected captain and served in the role until 2011. For the last decade, the post has been unmanned and the time has come for that to change.
Listing out the top 10 players Bogaerts needs to fight in order to earn the captaincy would be completely unnecessary (but awesome). Bogaerts has earned the role with his play on the field and leadership off of it. Fans of the team have also voiced their approval of this move on social media.
For a team and a fanbase that still has lingering effects of the Mookie Betts trade, granting Bogaerts the captaincy and allowing him to become even more of the face of the franchise seems like a no-brainer. Also, for an ownership group OBSESSED with PR stunts, try to imagine the fanfare they could garner up here. Think of a ceremony with Varitek giving Bogaerts his new jersey with a fresh C on the chest.
Show X the Money
The first time the Red Sox showed Bogaerts how important he was to the franchise was his 2019 contract extension. Bogaerts re-upped for six years and $120 million dollars. This new contract came before Xander was set to be a top free agent after the 2019 season.
Bogaerts is about to be in the same situation after next season.
The 2019 extension included an opt-out after the third season. While Bogaerts is very nicely paid at $20 million a year, he would be leaving money and the security of a longer-term deal on the table if he didn’t opt-out. Bogaerts is set to receive a far better contract than the 3 years and $60 million remaining on his extension.
The Red Sox need to recognize this and…
A potential extension for seven years and $190 million could work for both sides. It provides Bogaerts with his final big money contract and gives him security against the chance of injury as he enters into his 30’s. Bogaerts could receive a higher offer on the open market, but going this route opens up the chance of injury in the 2022 season.
The 2023 free agent class could also include positional players like Jose Ramirez, Nolan Arenado, Ketel Marte and Tim Anderson. Bogaerts is arguably the best offensive player of the bunch, but if teams with deep pockets prefer any of those players, Xander could find himself without a ticket to the big payday dance.
Where Bogaerts only needs 5-7 more seasons to make it into the top 10 of several all-time Red Sox stat lists, this extension would solidify him as a Red Sox great. Adding an incentive that ensures Bogaerts’ number is retired by Boston could be another enticing piece of a new contract. And again, Sox ownership should think of the spectacle that is a number retirement ceremony at Fenway Park.
Bogaerts showed he preferred re-signing over free agency once before, and the Sox should make an aggressive offer that makes him want to do so again.
Can the Red Sox Interest X in a Second Position?
The 2021 Red Sox season has overall been a great story. Redemption for a team that was bad in 2020 and has been among the top teams in the AL this year. A big piece of this turnaround has been their pitching improvement and some offensive rebounds by key players.
Their defense has not been part of the solution though. Last year they had the second lowest efficiency rating in all of baseball. This year? It’s dead last.
The previous 700+ words have all been about how awesome Xander Bogaerts is at baseball. And he is. What he’s not awesome at is defense. We’re not talking Manny Ramirez level in left field at Fenway, but Xander is at-best an average defensive player at a premium defensive position. This team needs significant improvement in this area if they want to get back to true title contention.
Bogaerts played over 50 games at third base during his first two seasons. A move to 3B would not seem like the best option as Rafael Devers has shown steady signs of improvement. Shifting to the oufield could work, but it would force Verdugo to CF where he hasn’t been great. It would also move Enrique Hernandez to 2B and out of CF, where he HAS been great this season.
This means the best move would be shifting Xander Bogaerts to second base.
However, Bogaerts will likely need some convincing to move off a position he’s solely played since 2015.
Giving Xander the “C” on his jersey, a lucrative extension with a duration to secure his place as an all-time Red Sox and, a guarantee his number will be retired is a nice start. This won’t be enough if the new shortstop taking grounders isn’t a player Xander can accept as a better option.
So who could that be?
Carlos Correa will be a free agent this offseason and will be 27 in 2022. He has been worth nearly 33 WAR over the last 7 seasons. He has been worth at least a 1 dWAR every season throughout his career and is having his best defensive year (2.2 dWAR). He’d be a gamechanger for the Red Sox franchise both offensively and defensively.
Also of interest in a potential Correa pursuit by Boston is his experience with Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
A Correa addition would not be cheap, especially after the recent landmark deals by shortstops Francisco Lindor (10 years, $341 million) and Fernando Tatis, Jr. (14 years, $330 million). The Mets had the pressure of Lindor being the big move by a new ownership group. They also traded away valuable assets to get him. The Mets HAD to sign Lindor and that likely caused him to get more than he should.
As for Tatis, Jr., he is the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout. He was also 22 when he signed. Neither of these deals should be needed to bring Correa to Boston.
Correa will likely command a 10-year deal, but the Sox might be able to get him closer to $275-$300 million. An enormous chunk of change but still a fair deal to a free-agent shortstop with a plus combination of offensive and defensive skill who is entering his prime.
The Red Sox will also need to extend Devers so Correa’s arrival puts the team over the top. Devers’ left-handed bat would fit in perfectly between righties Bogaerts and Correa. If Correa is added and that forces Bogaerts or Devers out of town then it’s more of a zero-sum gain. Again, for Bogaerts to accept his position change this needs to be a monumental move to put the Sox back at the top of the league.
But can they swing three position players making $25+ million? Yes, and here’s why:
The cost of acquiring a starting pitcher in free agency or via trade is extremely high. For example, the Red Sox paid Garret Richards $10 million after he had only made 13 starts since July 10, 2018.
Boston currently has Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi signed for their 2022 rotation. They have Nick Pivetta in his first year of arbitration and Tanner Houck at the minimum. There has also been a lot of talk of converting reliever Garrett Whitlock into a starter, who would also have a minimum salary in 2022.
The team will need more than five starters throughout the year. Starting with five already (with three at very low money) helps Boston avoid shelling out $15 million to fill out the rotation with another Richards or Martin Perez type.
The Sox farm system (recently ranked #9 by Baseball America) could continue to provide a pipeline of low-cost starters the franchise hasn’t seen, in well, maybe never. Three of the team’s top 10 prospects on SoxProspects.com are starters with ETA’s for joining the team in 2023/24 (Brayan Bello, Connor Seabold, and Jay Groome).
All of these young pitchers won’t pan out, but there is enough in the cupboard to allow the team to splurge outside of the rotation. Contracts for a Bogaerts, Correa, and Devers trio is a pretty good reason to splurge.
The Next Extension Bill Isn’t Due Soon
Outside of Rafael Devers, the Red Sox don’t have any other young players who warrant a mega-extension in the near future. Now this sounds like a problem, but hear me out.
When a team is considering giving out big money contracts they need to think about who else on the team would be up for one soon too. You don’t want to give everyone who is up for a deal a shiny new contract because you might run out of money when a better player is ready for his deal.
This is essentially what happened with Mookie Betts, but let’s move on.
The Red Sox have young talent in Alex Verdugo and Bobby Dalbec (19 HR and .860 OPS in 89 games from 5/13-9/12). These two players are not at the same level as a Bogaerts was for his first extension nor Devers is now. It’s possible Verdugo and Dalbec will play out their years of team control and move on. Or they could sign lower-level extensions than Bogaerts did.
Boston can feel good giving out big deals to Bogaerts/Correa/Devers at the same time, because the bill won’t be due for the next wave of young stars for several more seasons.
Like their starting rotation, Boston can also afford to spend big on three pieces of their lineup when other positions are manned by players making far less. And the Red Sox have an intriguing crop of prospects ready to make their debut in the next few seasons, and do it at a low salary.
The future at first base is top prospect Triston Casas, Baseball America’s #15 prospect in MLB. Outfielder Jarren Durran (BA’s #37 prospect) played in his first games this season and still has a bright future. Promising infielder Jeter Downs was BA’s #71 prospect before the year but is having a rough 2021 season at AAA. He still has plenty of time to turn that around and factor into this scenario, either as a trade piece or with a shift to the outfield.
If all things work out as the Red Sox hope their 2023 lineup could look like this:
CF – Durran (minimum salary)
LF – Verdugo (Year 2 of Arbitration)
2B – Xander Bogaerts
3B – Rafael Devers
SS – Carlos Correa
1B – Triston Casas (minimum salary)
RF – Hunter Renfroe (Year 3 of Abritration)
DH – Bobby Dalbec (minimum salary)
C – Connor Wong (minimum salary)
This is unlikely to all come to fruition like this, and the team would need an upgrade over Wong as their everyday catcher. The point is there’s a roadmap to having three high-priced middle of the order hitters surrounded by cost-controlled young players on the rise.
There are also fallbacks if these players don’t pan out. If Durran never plays at an everyday MLB level by 2023, the Sox could resign Hernandez. If Downs doesn’t bounce back from his current offensive struggles in AAA, the Sox still have Christian Arroyo (under control through the 2024 season). And if top prospect Casas doesn’t fulfill his potential, then there will be affordable first basemen to sign. For example, Mitch Moreland signed for $2.25 million this offseason and C.J. Cron signed for even less.
The Sox also have 2021 #4 overall pick Marcelo Mayer (BA’s #29 prospect) and 2020 #17 overall pick Nick Yorke (BA’s #64 prospect) having strong MiLB debut seasons. Each of these players have a longer development path than the other prospects but could be in Boston during the 2024 season. Both have shown the kind of potential to get fans excited and could help fill any lineup holes that arise.
There’s Money Freeing Up
The Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia’s final $13.3 million coming off the books after this year. JD Martinez will also either opt-out this offseason or play out his final year in 2022, cutting $20 million from the payroll. Finally, the David Price contract will finally be over in 2022 as his last $16 million will be paid out.
All in all, that’s nearly $50 million dollars the Red Sox will be able to use elsewhere.
They are the Boston Red Sox
The final and most important reason why Boston can afford to extend Bogaerts and Devers while also signing Correa is simple. They are the Boston Red Sox and the way the team has operated over the last two years has been downright embarrassing.
That’s all over now. It’s time to get back to throwing the team’s financial weight around. Chaim Bloom has referenced several times how he wants to operate like the Los Angeles Dodgers with spending on top talent and supplementing the team with a prospect pipeline.
The pipes have been laid. The system has risen back to prominence and is as promising as it’s been since Bogaerts was the #2 prospect in baseball.
Now it’s time to return to the team that signs top free agents and doesn’t go bargain shopping at the Winter Meetings. Get Correa, solidify the team’s defense, invigorate the fans and strike fear into the hearts of any fan under a NY hat.
And if the Red Sox can do all that, then they give their new captain a reason to move over to second base.
This is no doubt asking a lot of Bogaerts. He needs to move off his preferred position and accept the new shortstop got a higher priced deal than him. He will have to see Devers get an extension bigger than what he was ever offered.
Xander will get something only five other Red Sox players have had in the last 100 years. There will be the security of a final big money contract. He’ll have the longevity of his career in Boston to retire among the best players in franchise history. He will see his number retired. And he’ll finish out his prime in a stacked lineup that could add to his World Series rings collection.
It might not be enough to convince Bogaerts this all evens out. But if the Red Sox can pull this off it might end up being what’s best for Bogaerts and what’s best for Boston.
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