Amidst one of the most impressive stretches of his outstanding Red Sox career, Xander Bogaerts sounds like a man trying to wear blinders. Attempting to remain locked in at a time of considerable success on the field, even as he fends off the uncertainty that looms in just three weeks.
On Sunday, the shortstop went 1-for-2 with a walk while driving in the only run of a 1-0 Red Sox victory with a sac fly. In a postgame interview with WEEI, Bogaerts took stock of a scalding 18-game stretch in which he’s hitting .441/.487/.706 with four homers and 10 extra-base hits, putting him in position for career highs and his first batting title.
“Right now I’m extremely focused,” Bogaerts said. “Right now we have 21 games left, or whatever the calendar says. I’m just being extremely focused, one pitch at a time, trying to really swing at strikes.
“I know it’s coming down to the finish line and obviously stuff might get a little emotional. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. As I said, I feel like I really need to be locked in, really need to be focused. I’m not saying just to get hits, but just to focus. I have to be on point I feel if I want to perform [well] with everything that’s going on.”
Asked to clarify whether the “emotional” notion was because he could be nearing the end of his time in a Red Sox uniform, Bogaerts demurred.
“I don’t want to say that, but I mean, who knows what happens, you know? I just want to enjoy these  games as much as possible,” replied Bogaerts. “I feel like I need to be extra focused. Hopefully I’m here for a long, long time, but I guess that’s not in my control.”
The 29-year-old is hitting .319, ahead of Luis Arraez’s .315, and is on pace for career marks in on-base (.387) and wins above replacement (6.0, third in the AL as calculated by Fangraphs). Yet Bogaerts — far from the despondent tone he struck in mid-August — can’t escape the note of melancholy in which it’s occurred. Not just on a team nearing elimination, but also potentially in his final weeks with the only team for which he’s ever played.
In a sense, of course, that matter is very much in Bogaerts’s control. He is nearing the midway point of his six-year, $120 million extension signed just before the 2019 season, securing him through 2025. There’s not a mandate for him to exercise the right to opt out of it after this season to become a free agent.
Yet absent an extension in spring training, only a total collapse or major injury would have kept the shortstop from free agency. The chance to define the financial parameters — and quite likely the team for whom he plays — for the rest of his career made it highly probable even before he appeared poised to enter the market coming off a prime year.
After all, Trevor Story — six weeks younger than Bogaerts — signed his six-year, $140 million deal coming off one of the worst seasons of his career with the Rockies in 2021. Homers have been unusually infrequent (13), but Bogaerts has solidified his standing as one of the most reliable performers in the game.
The Sox’ modest offer this spring of a one-year, $30 million tack-on to Bogaerts’s remaining three years and $60 million failed to reflect that. Thus, the first time in Bogaerts’s career in which he’s had to wonder about the duration of his future in Boston.
He has made clear throughout the year that he is very open to returning, and Red Sox officials — from chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to president Sam Kennedy and principal owner John Henry (who also owns Boston Globe Media Partners) — have said they hope to keep Bogaerts as a franchise cornerstone.
There’s enough mutual affinity between player and team that it would be misguided to view his departure as a foregone conclusion. Indeed, multiple evaluators from rival organizations in recent days expressed a belief that Bogaerts and the Sox will find common ground. (The same was said about Atlanta and Freddie Freeman last season. There are no givens when a player reaches the open market.)
The batting chase has given the shortstop something of an anchor as he navigates the day-to-day reality of his unfamiliar position. Within the context of trying to forge good at-bats for his team, Bogaerts seemingly delights in the possibility of finishing the year with the highest average in his league.
“I’m a guy that’s very realistic, very aware. I know what’s going on. . . . That’s why I feel like I need to be extra focused,” said Bogaerts. “Pressure sometimes is a good thing. Pressure is only [uncomfortable] if you put that on yourself.”
For now, the self-imposed pressure serves as a welcome distraction. Yet Bogaerts’s tone offered insight into the difficulty he faces in trying to shut out questions about what comes next, with 12 Fenway contests remaining in the season.