In appreciation of Xander Bogaerts and his contract

Rob Bradford
September 13, 2019 - 8:17 am
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Let's give Dave Dombrowski credit on this one.

The former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations prioritized two players when talking contract extensions this past spring training: Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts.

There is plenty of criticism to go around when it comes to the idea of targeting Sale, particularly since the Red Sox hadn't seen him pitch since an injury-impacted 2018 (and he had no intention of leaving the Red Sox). Also, a case could be made that at least talking to Scott Boras about sweetening J.D. Martinez's contract to eliminate the idea of opting out should have been at the top of the list, as well.

But the notion to target Bogaerts? That, as it turned out, was vital.

The Red Sox are staring at a financial future that is appearing more and more uncomfortable, in large part because of the money allocated to three-fifths of their rotation -- Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. There is also the uncertainty that Mookie Betts' contract brings, with the outfielder eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. There are going to be a lot of difficult decisions. But thanks to Bogaerts' deal there is one fewer.

The Red Sox inked Bogaerts to a six-year, $120 million deal that allows for an opt-out after the 2022 season. For a player who has been arguably the best shortstop in baseball this season, that is a steal. And after night's like Wednesday -- when Bogaerts joined Alex Rodriguez as the only two shortstops to total 30 or more homers an 50 or more doubles in a single season -- the importance of the 28-year-old's existence becomes even clearer.

"I still believe, I think he’s going to be better," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters after his team's 7-4 win over the Blue Jays. "He’s going to understand when to attack a little bit more often just like Mookie [Betts> right now, he’s in a groove swinging at the first pitch, putting good swings. He will do that with time ... We’re very proud of him.

“It’s not only the numbers. It’s him showing up consistently every day and the routine and being a leader and understanding what he means to the organization. In a quote-unquote bad season [for the Red Sox>, he’s been showing up every day and he’s learning a lot this year."

This "quote-unquote bad season" would be a ton worse -- and uncomfortable -- if not for Bogaerts and his new lot in life.

It's hard to define if Bogaerts' breakout season would have been possible with the pressures of a contract year, as he pointed out when appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast. "I don’t know," said Bogaerts when asked about how he would feel these days if the shortstop was living life in a contract year. "I don’t know how I would have dealt with all the …"

He added during the early Aug. conversation, "I don’t know. Especially the way our team was playing. We had a lot of ups and downs and that can affect you sometimes because you might want to try and do too much for the team and you start getting into a bigger hole. I wouldn’t know.

"I was more happy with being here and knowing everyone that’s here for all these years and all the guys I came up with, such a special year last year with our coaching staff. I think just knowing everyone from front office down was … These guys always want to win. They’re always going to put out the best team they can possibly put out."

If there was no deal then the new general manager's task would have gotten appreciably more challenging this offseason. There would have been a very good chance the Red Sox might have to face an either-or scenario when it came to Bogaerts and Betts, with the shortstop in line to match up with whatever enormous payday soon-to-be free agent Anthony Rendon is about to reel in. And while prospect C.J. Chatham did turn in a solid year between Double- and Triple-A, starting over on the field and in the clubhouse without Bogaerts would have been a gigantic step back.

And for those toying with the idea of potentially replacing him with a free agent such as Elvis Andrus, Didi Gregorius, Freddy Galvis or Jose Iglesias? That wasn't going to work.

But Bogaerts is here and will be for at least three more seasons. And that is something Dombrowski can take pride in and the ownership group can rest easy about.

"These weren’t goals I set coming into the season," Bogaerts told reporters after raising his batting average to .304 and OPS to .940. "I mean, I had no idea who did any of this or anything like that. But once I started getting a lot of doubles, getting a lot of homers and then you start hearing stuff, and you’re like, ‘Oh.’ It’s just a mentality and approach to go and get it, and I’m happy I did it. It’s been a while since I had a double. I’ve been hitting a lot of balls in the infield, and you can’t get a double hitting ground balls in the infield, so it was good."