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around the horn | shortstop

Xander Bogaerts is an institution as Red Sox shortstop — but for how much longer?

Xander Bogaerts has the second-most starts at shortstop in Red Sox history.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Xander Bogaerts put together another quality season in 2021. The Red Sox shortstop hit .295/.370/.493 with 23 homers and an .863 OPS.

Next year will be his ninth full season with the Red Sox. He still represents the heartbeat of the team, a homegrown talent who has two World Series championships to his name. Bogaerts is a consistent leader with the positive personality to go with it, according to manager Alex Cora.

Yet Bogaerts has just one year until he can opt out of the six-year, $120 million deal he signed at the start of 2019. That decision will have the potential to reshape the organization.


Bogaerts has the second-most starts at shortstop in Red Sox history (1,033), behind Everett Scott, who had 1,081. It’s fair to assume he will pass Scott early next year, which only adds to his decorated Sox career.

What does the future hold for Xander Bogaerts?Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Bogaerts has been arguably the best-hitting shortstop in the majors the last three seasons. Since the start of 2019, his .302 batting average ranks third among shortstops with 1,000 plate appearances. Both his slugging (.523) and OPS (.899) also rank third, while his .375 on-base percentage ranks first.

Bogaerts isn’t a flashy player. Though he was an All-Star starter this past season, it seems as if he always flies under the radar among his peers.

“He’s underrated in the eyes of the outside world,” Cora said back in April. “Offensively, you see what he does. For him to play in this market and people have not recognized him as probably the best offensive shortstop in the big leagues, well, I mean, that’s for people to say that. But in my mind, like I’ve been saying all along, and for me, personally, I’m happy that he’s my shortstop.”

In the field, Bogaerts is fundamentally sound on the balls hit straight to him and on turning double plays. Yet his range is limited in some aspects, particularly up the middle.


The Red Sox could be in the market for a marquee shortstop this offseason. Carlos Correa, who has a relationship with Cora dating to their days in Houston, is a big name and could be a defensive upgrade. Bogaerts, in turn, could move to second or third base.

That would be a long shot, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has said that while the Sox are satisfied with the left side of their infield, it’s important to at least explore any opportunity that could make the team better.

If the Sox don’t pursue a shortstop this time around, the Dodgers’ Trea Turner will be a free agent at the end of next season, and he could fit well into the plans.

Could Trea Turner fit in Boston?Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Nonetheless, it’s tough to find a talent like Bogaerts. Though he will likely have to move off shortstop at some point, what he’s done during his tenure with the Red Sox is noteworthy. It’s rare that you see the hype that met Bogaerts when the Sox signed him out of Aruba in 2009 equal the level of productivity and then some.

“The years that Xander Bogaerts has played for Boston are Hall of Fame years,” Pedro Martinez said last week. “So we have to [make sure] Xander continues to feel comfortable, and continues to do what he has to do.”

The Red Sox don’t have much depth at shortstop, and that might be because Bogaerts has been such a mainstay. Jonathan Araúz can handle the position, but he carries a light bat. The Sox drafted Marcelo Mayer in the first round this year. Mayer was arguably the best player in the draft and is known for flashing the leather at shortstop, but he’s still just 18 and just completed his first year of rookie ball.


Young Marcelo Mayer worked out at Fenway Park in July after being drafted by the Red Sox.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Sox and Bogaerts will have some decisions on their hands in the coming year. His opt-out will rule parts of the season, just like the trade talk surrounding Mookie Betts in 2019 that ultimately came to fruition. Nevertheless, shortstops don’t come around often, and for now, the Red Sox still have their guy.

“I never try to get too complacent, too happy,” Bogaerts said back in September. “There’s always room to improve.”


Primary 2021 starter: Xander Bogaerts

Projected 2022 starter: Xander Bogaerts

Major league depth: Yairo Muñoz, Jonathan Araúz, Jack Lopez, Jeter Downs

Prospects to watch: Marcelo Mayer, Matthew Lugo, Brainer Bonaci

Read the rest of the Around the Horn series

Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.