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What Will it Take for the Red Sox to Sign Xander Bogaerts?

The Red Sox have a clear top priority to resign Xander Bogaerts, but that is no guarantee they can pull off a deal.

The Boston Red Sox have a busy offseason ahead of them, and resigning shortstop Xander Bogaerts is the most important item on their to-do list.  He will almost certainly opt out of his six-year, $120M contract, which has an average annual value of $20M.  Bogaerts obviously won’t be accepting a hometown discount, or else he wouldn’t be opting out, so the Red Sox will have to win a bidding war.  It is unclear at this point which other teams are interested in signing him, but plenty of teams could use a star hitter.

During their end-of-season press conference, upper management stressed that resigning Bogaerts is indeed their top priority.  If that is true, General Manager Chaim Bloom and his staff are busy deciding how much to offer a franchise legend.  They will be comparing his numbers to other star shortstops who have hit the market in recent years.  There are many factors that go into determining contract figures, but we will be focusing on three crucial ones: WAR, OPS/OPS+, and age.

Xander is entering his age-30 season, meaning he is older than most of his comparisons.  He could have made much more if he was 27 or 28 because teams would be paying for a few more prime seasons.  But Bogaerts is coming off another great season.  His .833 OPS is a little below his previous few seasons due to a drop in home runs, but the league-wide drop in offense means his 131 OPS+ is right in line with his career norms.  He has also dramatically improved his defense at short, from -5 DRS in 2021 to 4 this year.  Taken together, his 5.7 WAR is the second highest of his career, behind 2019.

Baseline Comparisons

The Red Sox are fortunate to some extent that this offseason has another great shortstop class, meaning the demand for Bogaerts will be lower than if he was the only star available.  Eager teams can also pursue Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Dansby Swanson to anchor a lineup and infield.

Bogaerts will obviously get more than $20M per year, but we can also raise the bar by looking at what lesser shortstops have earned.  Trevor Story’s contract has an AAV of $23.3M, and his last season with the Rockies was a bit of a letdown.  He had an OPS of .801 after three straight years close to .900.  In addition, the Red Sox signed him to play second base next to Bogaerts, so they were betting on the bat.  Javier Baez also had an up-and-down 2021 season with an .813 OPS after a strong finish with the Mets.  The Tigers gave him $140M over six years, the exact same deal as Story.  It appears Bogaerts will comfortably make over $25M per year.

High-End Comparisons

As great a hitter as Xander Bogaerts is, I would be shocked if he took a short-term, inflated AAV deal like the Twins lured Carlos Correa with during Spring Training.  Correa will get another big deal this winter, but if a younger player who is better on defense won’t get $35M, then Bogaerts definitely won’t.

Last November, the Rangers gave massive deals to both Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.  After setting the single-season home run record at second base, Semien signed for $25M per year.  His 131 OPS+ with the Blue Jays was right in line with Bogaerts’ numbers.  Seager was one of the elite hitters in baseball in his last two seasons with the Dodgers, powering up to the tune of a .943 OPS in 2020 and a .915 OPS in 2021.  Texas rewarded him with a ten-year deal averaging $32.5M per year.

Soon after trading for Francisco Lindor during the ’20-’21 offseason, the Mets gave him a ten-year deal worth $341 million, a bit more than Seager.  An elite defender and infectious personality, Lindor brings more to the table than just a good bat.  Lindor was coming off a just-okay shortened season with Cleveland, but the previous three years look a lot like Bogaerts’ production on offense.

Final Verdict

Xander Bogaerts is set for a big pay raise, but he probably won’t be among the league leaders at shortstop.  In his three best years in Ohio, Lindor averaged 5.9 WAR and signed his extension entering his age-27 season.  Seager had “only” 3.7 WAR in his last season with the Dodgers but was entering his age-28 years.  The Rangers overpaid for offense, but like the Mets they also paid for more prime seasons.

Bogaerts has averaged 5.3 WAR his last two seasons and is now 30 years old, so he can earn an amount between the Story/Baez tier and the Lindor/Seager tier.  John Henry should be prepared to write a check for $224 million over eight years, an average of $28M per year.


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