After their third loss in four games, some very good news came out on Sunday when we learned that, at least according to reports, the Red Sox had agreed to a six-year contract extension with Xander Bogaerts. The deal is reportedly going to be worth $120 million. Here are some scattered thoughts on the big deal.
- Just like with the Chris Sale extension, the first thought is definitely one of excitement. The Red Sox truly do have a special core right now, and there has been legitimate concern that much of it is going to splinter off and find new teams in free agency. There are still a good number of players without long-term deals, but arguably the two biggest names who could see free agency at the end of this season (Sale and Bogaerts) are locked up. With Bogaerts in particular we’re talking about a player many of us have been following since the day he signed as an international free agent a decade ago. Knowing he’ll be here for the long haul is a great feeling.
- I’ve talked a lot about how interested I’ve been in his market, and while others don’t seem as surprised as I am that Bogaerts settled for a deal right now rather than playing out 2019 first it’s still worth discussing. We’ve talked about this a bunch before, but he has had such an interesting career. In the early parts, he was still very good just in a way that no one was really expecting. Then, in 2018 he took a massive and undeniable step forward in the way everyone expected him to produce when he first came up to the big leagues. He was never going to be paid based on that 2018 season after doing it just once, but if he had repeated himself in 2019 he would have been pushing $200 million, or at least could have argued for it. Everyone prioritizes different things and Bogaerts clearly likes it here in Boston, but I’m still fascinated by where his market could have gone as the year goes on. Personally, this deal feels like a major steal for the Red Sox.
- It’s also impossible to talk about this deal, or any deal right now anyway, without the context of the labor strife around the league. Free agency for just about everyone is stagnant — consider that even at the top players are still clawing for the Alex Rodriguez signed 12 years ago — and for two years in a row now we’ve seen major changes that has players understandably worried. There’s little doubt that’s the reason behind so many stars signing extensions late in spring training and now it’s carrying into the regular season. Bogaerts has an opt-out after the 2022 season, and that is no coincidence. That is the year there will theoretically be a new CBA in place, so Bogaerts will have a chance to enter free agency in a more stable market if it comes to fruition. All in all, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel at least a little weird to lock up such a great player under these weird circumstances.
- As far as the luxury tax goes, there has been some confusion on this point, from myself included. The deal is being reported by some as a seven-year, $132 million deal. That is true when you count in the 2019 salary, but that isn’t how it will be calculated for luxury tax purposes. For this year, his $12 million arbitration salary is what counts against the luxury tax. Starting next year, the six-year, $120 million contract will count towards the tax. So, for those six years he’ll cost $20 million against the tax.
- One of the more underrated portions of Bogaerts’ time here, and one of the big reasons I’m so excited about him sticking around for a long time, is his leadership. Even at a relatively young age, Bogaerts is a glue guy in the clubhouse. The shortstop, partially thanks to being able to speak so many languages, connects with everyone in the clubhouse and has been credited with helping young players out all around the organization. Old friend Mauricio Dubon said so himself after the news broke on Sunday.
- The biggest question after this deal has been how does this affect Mookie Betts. Putting aside that we should try to enjoy things for 30 seconds before worrying about the rest, this shouldn’t have much of an effect on Betts. It’s worth noting the Red Sox do have a bunch of money coming off the books this winter even with this and the Sale deal in place with Rick Porcello likely leaving and J.D. Martinez possibly following as well. (As for those two, I think the former is almost certainly gone but the latter I am still not convinced will even opt-out.) Plus, they have a bunch of second- and third-tier free agents as well as the Pablo Sandoval money coming off the books. Even besides all that, Betts is such a unique talent unlike almost anyone the franchise has ever had. For a team like the Red Sox, you almost forget about the budget when you sign him. Get him under contract whenever he’s ready to talk and worry about the rest later. Anything else would be malpractice.
- There has been some shock about Bogaerts signing a long-term deal before free agency despite being a Scott Boras client. It’s always worth remembering a simple fact: Boras works for his clients not the other way around. Even if he tries to convince them waiting for free agency is the best move, he will ultimately move in the direction his client wants to move. In this case, Bogaerts expressed an interest in staying in Boston and getting a deal done before having to deal with the open market, and Boras obliged.
- Next year’s free agent class is going to be rough. If Martinez does indeed either restructure his deal or simply decline to use his opt-out, the top three free agents right now will be Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and....Josh Donaldson? Didi Gregorius? If one of those top two signs an extension, things will basically crater.