Welcome back to Free Averency, in which our own Avery Hamel takes a look at all of the Red Sox in-house free agents ahead of the crucial 2022-23 offseason. Last time, she looked at Rich Hill. Today, she digs into Xander Bogaerts. . . and then immediately goes into hiding.
And now… it’s time for the one that you’ve ALL been waiting for…
*fanfare plays* *people scream and shout* *babies cry*
It’s time to talk about Xander Bogaerts.
Monday, Nov. 7 marked the first day players could choose to exercise contract opt-outs following the beginning of 2023 free agency on the 6th. Unsurprisingly, Bogaerts did just this, forfeiting the final three years, $20 million left on his extension signed during the 2018-2019 offseason.
Based on free agent contracts handed out the past two offseasons, it was clear that Bogaerts would be able to get a much higher average annual value (AAV) than $20 million from multiple teams.
Bogaerts will be asking for around a $30 million AAV, based on his terms during extension talks with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2022 season. In those failed negotiations, he requested to be paid similarly to Carlos Correa of the Minnesota Twins ($35.1 million), Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets ($34.1 million), and Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers ($33 million).
Bogaerts’ free agent case is, realistically, about more than just statistics and sensibility. Rather, his case includes emotional, nostalgic and formative ties to both the organization as a whole and Boston’s fan base.
He’s not your average player
First things first: on the 2022 Red Sox, Bogaerts was the only remaining player that was on the 2013 World Series roster. This means something, of course, because of that team’s specific importance from a city-wide and fanbase point-of-view.
David Ortiz’s speech and the Sox win at Fenway to clinch their first World Series at home since 1918 uplifted the city of Boston following — and during — one of the most tragic attacks in recent American history. Bogaerts was part of this historic squad, and came up clutch in the 2013 World Series, culminating with two RBI in six games played as a rookie (and the youngest player to ever start a Red Sox playoff game). This factor is something that makes him invaluable to fans, even more so because he was a part of yet another historic team in 2018, contributing plenty to the Red Sox’s second ring in five years, as he finished 13th in the MVP voting.
Additionally, Bogaerts took a hometown discount when he signed his current contract a year before he hit free agency in order to stay with the only team he’d ever known. This counts for something in the minds of the Fenway Faithful, as there are not many players who have done the same in today’s day and age.
Moving on to the organizational standpoint, Bogaerts represents something for the Red Sox that they have let go of in recent history: a star player and a well-known face. Though Rafael Devers is younger (and arguably better), many look at Bogaerts as “the face of the franchise.” With the (I guess not so recent at this point?) departure of Mookie Betts, Boston could use a person like Bogaerts to draw in higher attendance, viewership, and fan loyalty.
But this isn’t a marketing class, as I’m not enrolled in my college’s business school — so let’s talk about what Bogaerts means to the team in a *real* form of value: team performance on the field.
Obviously, Bogaerts is good. We know this. Is he the best option for the Red Sox this offseason? No. Is he, objectively the best shortstop on the market? Once again, no. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that Bogaerts is a good, solid player— and would bring even more value if he were finally willing to move on from the shortstop position.
Losing valuable players is typically not something that fans enjoy. Losing two star players in the span of ~two years under the same (new) front office? That’s something that some fans, who are already not so fond of Chaim Bloom, may consider unforgivable.
This decision could make or break many fans’ opinions of Bloom and his organizational approach. Personally, I’m all for whatever makes the team the best it can be (though it is hard when you develop sentimental connections with young players). But as we know, many Boston fans do not particularly share this sentiment.
Finally, though, it is important to consider that the Red Sox losing Bogaerts and not signing a better, or at least comparable, replacement would certainly and unequivocally make this team worse. He has, after all, led all Red Sox position players in fWAR in the last two seasons— and his fantastic leadership is always commented upon by a multitude of his teammates, manager Alex Cora, and front office staff.
Compare and contrast
The thing is, unfortunately for Bogaerts, the beloved Red Sox shortstop is going into the 2022 season with some competition among free agent shortstops. Carlos Correa, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson will also be entering free agency, and all at a younger age.
Here’s how the four players match up in the mark of wOBA, with the x-axis based on their age entering an MLB season.
This graph was rather surprising to me. Bogaerts hasn’t recorded a below-average year in terms of wOBA since his second full year in the league— as a 21-year-old. He had the highest mark of the three this last year, and Correa, Turner and Swanson all have career wOBAs within .009 of each other. It’s not a surprise that Bogaerts is a great player— we knew that—but the fact that he’s been consistently good, even better than his competition, in this comprehensive statistic is telling— and shows why his asking price will be so high in this offseason.
For further comparison, consider this chart that features common and advanced statistics comparing Bogaerts to his three main offseason competitors.
Bogaerts offensive comparison
|Correa (2021 and 2022 averaged)||0.285||0.366||0.476||0.363||136||5.3|
(Okay, quick sidenote, but how the hell did Dansby Swanson have the greatest WAR total among this group in 2022? If you had asked me, without looking it up, I would have confidently placed him at no higher than third in this list.)
Clearly, Bogaerts can hang with this group offensively— as proven by his four top-20 all-time MVP finishes, four All-Star Game selections, two World Series titles, and five Silver Sluggers— so why is he not the best option in this class?
Sometimes with elite players like Bogaerts, their defensive metrics do not demonstrate the same prowess that the offensive stats do.
Defense has long been a struggle for Bogaerts, though some fans may not see or acknowledge this fact. Out of the four “prime” free agent shortstops, Bogaerts is definitely the most likely to move off the position of shortstop on his new team (similarly to Trevor Story in his decision to sign with the Red Sox last year). But Bogaerts made it clear that, at least in Boston, he wasn’t interested in giving up this prized position.
We’ll see if big bucks and an open market change his mind.
Statistically, here’s a defensive comparison of the four top free agent shortstops. (UZR and DRS are career marks while OAA is only for the 2022 season).
Bogaerts Defensive Comparison
|Player||DRS (career)||UZR/150 (career)||OAA|
|Player||DRS (career)||UZR/150 (career)||OAA|
|Bogaerts||-51||0.9||5 (13th among SS)|
|Turner||9||-1.3||0 (23rd among SS)|
|Swanson||16||1.7||21 (1st among SS)|
|Correa||70||-2.3||(-3 26th among SS)|
Correa’s metrics have been consistently above-average for his career, but he did experience some injuries this year (middle finger contusion) that affected his season-long defensive performance.
This table shows us more of what we already know. While Bogaerts has adequate range— which contributes to his average UZR, OAA, and appearance of stellar defensive play— he struggles in a key area, which is saving more defensive runs than his peers. Out of his competitors, Bogaerts is the only player with a negative DRS mark for their career. In fact, the next lowest mark out of these three, which is Swanson’s +9, is *60* runs better than Bogaerts. Yikes.
Bogaerts’ iffy defense but impressive offensive history immediately makes me think of Marcus Semien as another person to compare with. Semien signed a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers following the 2021 season, where he switched from playing shortstop to second base. (Semien did play the majority of the 2021 season in Toronto at second base, but before that was always slated in the shortstop position).
Another easily comparable player is Francisco Lindor a young(er) shortstop given a huge deal by a new owner. But because of these circumstances, the AAV of his contract is much inflated, as no one will be handing out deals like new Mets owner Steve Cohen. But still, it is good to compare these two players, statistically, to Bogaerts.
|Lindor (career through 2020)||0.285||0.346||0.488||0.351||119||5.3|
In categories that he does not lead, Bogaerts is close behind. And in the categories of average and on-base percentage, the Sox shortstop is leaps and bounds ahead of both Lindor and Semien.
So, will he get $30 million AAV? Maybe. Maybe not. I could genuinely see it going either way. This year features an uber-comptetive market that includes similar, and better, players than Bogaerts that simultaneously have the advantage of being younger and better defensively. Because of that, among other factors, I would expect a contract similar to that of Semien, so I’ll put it at seven years, $180 million as Bogaerts’ final deal.
What should the Red Sox do?
Now onto the big question… should the Red Sox re-sign Bogaerts?
As much as I am sentimentally attached to this (formerly) scrawny kid from Aruba, I feel that, after not agreeing upon an extension during the season, it may be time to let Bogaerts walk.
Here’s the deal: I love the man. I will probably (inevitably?) cry when or if he signs with another team — just like I did with Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi (twice!). But, if the Sox are going to spend big, and they seem primed, and predicted, to do so I would rather the money go to a solid offensive player that will also perform at least above average on the defensive side as well.
Additionally, I think Boras Co. is pushing a bit far to request $30 million AAV for Bogaerts, who has had his struggles. Of course, they are comparing this to recent free agency trends and specifically the Lindor deal, which I’ve already mentioned is inflated due to Steve Cohen’s spending habits, which probably plays in their favor. I think he could probably be offered $30 million AAV from a team, and I, personally, think that the only players worth more than $30 million AAV are Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, and *maybe* Trea Turner. So if you’re willing and able to sign Bogaerts at a Carlos Correa chip (which the Red Sox at least seem to be), then why not just… sign Carlos Correa?
In summation, as they say on Shark Tank, for these reasons, I am out.
What Should The Red Sox Do With Xander Bogaerts?
This poll is closed
Re-sign him at whatever the market demands.
Re-sign him, but only for less than $30 million AAV.
Let him walk and move on.