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Baseball 2021 | The core

The Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts didn’t expect to be part of a rebuild in his prime. He hopes patience pays off

Xander Bogaerts (center) does not regret his commitment to the Red Sox.
Xander Bogaerts (center) does not regret his commitment to the Red Sox.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nate Eovaldi agreed to a four-year, $68 million contract with the Red Sox six weeks after the 2018 World Series. The righthander said at the time he wanted to stay with a contender.

Then shortstop Xander Bogaerts made a similar decision 3½ months later, working out a six-year, $120 million extension.

The Sox, Bogaerts said when the deal was announced, were set up for a long run of success and he wanted to experience that with the teammates he had come to treasure.

But the Sox have not qualified for the postseason since, finishing third in the American League East in 2019 and last in 2020. Now Eovaldi and Bogaerts are two of only nine players remaining from the 2018 team, a number that could drop even more in the coming months.

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Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez will be free agents after the season. Christian Vázquez will be, too, unless the Sox exercise their $7 million option.

In his 17 months on the job, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has made it clear that the 40-man roster will be in a constant state of transition, and anybody can be traded.

“A lot of new faces and names,” said Bogaerts, who doesn’t regret his commitment to the organization.

Bogaerts was drafted by Theo Epstein, promoted to the majors by Ben Cherington, and won a second championship on a team put together by Dave Dombrowski.

The organization’s philosophies have been fluid over the past decade, and Bogaerts has become accustomed to new faces and names in the front office, too. He believes Bloom has improved the team after a disastrous 2020 season.

“The pitching has been getting better, a lot of big arms in the bullpen,” Bogaerts said. “We also traded for some guys with experience. We’re looking a lot better than we did last year.”

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Xander Bogaerts, like many Red Sox fans, hope the dismal 2020 season was an anomaly.
Xander Bogaerts, like many Red Sox fans, hope the dismal 2020 season was an anomaly.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

At 28, Bogaerts is in his prime and could opt out of his contract after the 2022 season. A methodical rebuild wasn’t in his plans when he signed the extension. But he’s patient.

“When I came here as a young kid in 2012, the veteran guys told me to enjoy it because it goes by quick,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about how time flies and now I’m one of the most experienced guys.

“I know the ins and outs of this organization and I know that winning is huge for them.”

Bogaerts isn’t thinking about his opt-out right now. He’s eager to see how the new-look Sox perform.

“When that time comes, we’ll go over that,” he said.

Barnes, a key member of the bullpen since 2015, feels the same way.

“It seems crazy we’ve lost as many players as we have in just a short time. But there’s been good energy in spring training,” he said. “We’re having a lot of fun, and having Alex [Cora] back has made a difference.

“I’ll have a chance to make some decisions after the season, and I think we have a good future.”

Barnes looks at the additions of Marwin Gonzalez, Kiké Hernández, Adam Ottavino, and Garrett Richards as being transformational, even if only for the short term.

“There’s no question we’re better and we have a lot more talent in the minors than we’ve had in recent years,” he said. “To me this feels like when I was coming up through the system and every team had a couple of future major leaguers.”

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Bogaerts is willing to see if Bloom’s methods will work in Boston.

“I think I see a lot of winning minds in [the clubhouse],” he said. “Sometimes we want guys with big names on our teams. Who wouldn’t want guys like that? A $300 million contract, a $200 million contract, on your team because he’s that good.

“But I think we brought in guys who have a lot of winning experience. Guys who have been to the playoffs, guys who know how to win. That gets a lot overlooked.

“You can see the mind-set that the front office is taking and the direction they want to go. If you bring in winning players, I don’t see how you’re not going to win.”

Barnes said the veteran players respect Bloom’s background.

“Tampa Bay always has talent coming up, and they make smart moves,” he said. “Chaim was a big part of that. That’s a team that went to the World Series last year, which speaks for itself. To me, he’s proven he knows what he’s doing.”

Eovaldi still believes he’s with a contender.

“I know we’re a lot better by what I’ve seen since we got [to spring training],” he said. “Our expectations are to be playing in October again.”


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Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.