Xander Bogaerts has never hid from the fact that he and the Red Sox haven’t come close to common ground in discussions about an extension to prevent him from opting out of his contract after the 2022 season.
The shortstop said before leaving spring training that he and the team hadn’t come close to a deal, and that he planned to set aside any further conversations as of Opening Day. But while his resigned demeanor offered a clue about what had occurred, the nature of the Red Sox’ offer didn’t come to light until Wednesday night.
According to the New York Post, the Sox offered Bogaerts — who is all but certain to opt out of his six-year, $120 million deal after this season — an additional one year and “about $30 million” on the original deal. That would mean they were offering roughly four years and $90 million beyond the coming season for Bogaerts to forgo free agency with a commitment that would span his age 30 through 33 seasons.
Bogaerts’s agent, Scott Boras, would not comment on the specifics of the offer, but it wasn’t hard to read between the lines of what he was willing to say.
“In the storied history of the Boston Red Sox, few players have multiple rings on their fingers and consistently play at an All-Star level,” said Boras. “Those players that historically can do that are few and far between. And they command and deserve their requisite respect.”
In the context of the market, it’s hard to see the Post’s description of the Red Sox’ offer as an act of “requisite respect.”
From 2019-21, Bogaerts hit .302 with a .376 on-base percentage and .523 slugging percentage. All of those marks surpassed the five middle infielders who signed free agent deals of at least $100 million this offseason: Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million, $32.5 million AAV), Marcus Semien (seven years, $175 million, $25 million AAV), Trevor Story (six years, $140 million, $23.33 million AAV), Javier Báez (six years, $140 million, $23.33 million AAV), and Carlos Correa (three years, $105.3 million, $35.1 million AAV).
Offensively, Bogaerts also outperformed the three-year run of Francisco Lindor before the Mets signed the shortstop to a 10-year, $341 million deal.
Even factoring in defense through Wins Above Replacement, Bogaerts remains elite even in the context of that well-compensated group. From 2019-21, Bogaerts ranked second in the majors with 13.9 WAR (as calculated by Fangraphs), behind only Semien (15.4).
While some believe defensive limitations and questions about Bogaerts’s future position could erode his value on the open market, the Rangers’ signing of Seager — who grades as average to below average at short and will likely move off the position over the life of the contract — suggests otherwise. And Bogaerts’s excellence against elite velocity points to a player who has a chance to age well offensively.
Bogaerts is a Red Sox pillar, a homegrown player who is often described by manager Alex Cora as the foremost source of stability in the organization. His work ethic and commitment to his team are cited as a model for younger players.
“I don’t think you can really have a better franchise player, to be honest with you,” said one rival American League evaluator. “He’s as good as you can hope for.”
Semien, Lindor, and Seager all were signed through their age-37 seasons. Story, the new Red Sox second baseman whom Bogaerts helped recruit, and Báez were signed through age 34. The Sox’ offer would have extended Bogaerts only through his age-33 season and at both a far lower total and average salary than all the others.
While Correa accepted a shorter-term deal, he did so because he wanted to return to free agency while still in his 20s.
Comparing an extension offer to Bogaerts against recent free agent contracts is not an apples-to-apples circumstance. Teams typically want some kind of discount — on years, dollars, or both — before a player reaches the open market. That can make it harder for franchise players and teams to find common ground, as Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom noted on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show” Thursday when speaking generally about talks with Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
“When you’re talking extensions and doing things early, so to speak, you’re adding more variables,” Bloom said. “There’s risk that gets shared when you do those things. There’s upside that gets shared.
“There’s just much more potential, even if the desire is there and the player wants to be here and we want the player here, there’s just much more potential for people to see the world differently. And, in those cases, without getting into too much detail, it was fairly clear early on that we weren’t going to align.”
That said, the Sox’ offer still falls well outside the realm of recent extensions for elite players. Lindor signed his 10-year, $341 million deal, running from ages 28-37, one year before reaching free agency. After the Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts, they signed him to a 12-year, $365 million deal running from ages 28 through 39 in the season before the former Red Sox star reached free agency.
In the spring of 2018, the Astros signed Jose Altuve to a five-year, $151 million extension two years before he was eligible for free agency. Just days ago, the small-market Cleveland Guardians extended José Ramírez on a five-year, $124 million deal two years before his free agent eligibility.
Had the Red Sox used a contract such as the Altuve extension or even Story’s deal as a basis for negotiations, progress might have been made before the season. But after the offer came nowhere close, it’s hard not to think of the team’s failed negotiations with lefthander Jon Lester in the spring of 2014 — when a four-year, $70 million offer set in motion the pitcher’s departure — and to wonder whether they wouldn’t have been better off not making any offer.
“Xander is done taking discounts,” said one source familiar with his thinking.
That doesn’t rule out a return. The Dodgers, aside from Betts, have let many of their stars reach free agency — including Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner — and then negotiated new contracts with them when competing against other teams on the open market.
“We didn’t find that alignment [with Bogaerts and Devers] this time,” said Bloom. “We’ll have a chance to take this up again down the road. And things will be different for everybody at that point in time, and we’ll see where we’re at and hopefully we can we can find that path.”