TORONTO — During his first term as manager of the Red Sox, Alex Cora would occasionally be asked about Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, or Francisco Lindor, three All-Star shortstops from Puerto Rico he has known for years.
Cora was always careful to temper his remarks by saying how much he loved his shortstop, Xander Bogaerts.
Initially, the new manager was being diplomatic. But over time, as Cora saw Bogaerts consistently exceed the high expectations that come with playing for the Sox, the love was genuine.
In Cora’s mind, there is little doubt the Red Sox should find a path that keeps Bogaerts with the team for the rest of his career. To what degree ownership and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom share that vision will become clearer.
The World Series is scheduled to conclude sometime between Nov. 1-5. The day after it ends, Bogaerts has the right to opt out of the remaining three years and $60 million on his contract.
He would be foolish not to given that three of his contemporaries — Correa, Lindor, and Corey Seager — all agreed to contracts worth at least $31.5 million annually last offseason. Bogaerts is as good, if not better, than all of them.
The point is not whether $20 million is enough. Of course it is. But it’s not what Bogaerts is worth.
The Sox could stop this process before it starts and negotiate a new contract before the Series ends.
Agent Scott Boras believes in the idea of taking his clients into free agency to determine their value. But Bogaerts told Boras to make a deal with the Sox in 2019 and he did.
My belief is Bogaerts wants a contract that is fair given how the landscape has changed for shortstops, not necessarily a record-setter. He values what he has in Boston.
Another belief: If the Sox intend to keep Bogaerts, they need to act decisively this month. If he gets into the market, it could be a frenzy.
If Trea Turner leaves the Dodgers, Bogaerts is a perfect replacement. If the built-to-win Cardinals want a player to get them over the top, Bogaerts is an excellent fit.
The Cubs, Giants, and Phillies also will be in the market for a shortstop.
The Sox have not re-started negotiations yet — “Crickets,” said a member of Bogaerts’ camp — but the expectation is they will once the season ends.
Bogaerts, who turned 30 on Saturday, went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter in a 10-0 loss against the Blue Jays. The plan is for him to have Sunday off, then start the final three games of the season at shortstop.
Bogaerts expects the coming week will be an emotional one for him given the uncertainty about his future.
“I’ve never been through this before,” he said. “I know I want to play those last three games and be in front of those fans.”
What about for Cora?
“I don’t know. It’ll be emotional, but I hope we don’t get too emotional,” he said. “It’s part of it. I hope he’s my shortstop for however long I want to manage.
“That’s the goal here. We like him; we like him a lot. Obviously, he has a decision to make first, but we’ve been open about this. We want him here. Whatever decision he makes and whatever happens after that, we’ll see.”
To be sure, this is all very personal. Bogaerts signed with the Sox out of Aruba when he was 16. There are people in the organization he views like extended members of his family.
In 2020, when Cora was suspended by Major League Baseball for his role in Houston’s 2017 cheating scandal, Bogaerts was one of the first players who reached out with his support.
“I love my shortstop,” Cora said. “I keep saying it. In a market that is so hard, for [assorted] reasons, a young kid in 2013, he comes in and he’s successful.
“All those stories and the way he’s handled himself in this market. A good-looking kid and no red flags off the field. No red flags on the field. Spokesman for the organization; spokesman for his country.
“For him to post every day and to do it the right way is amazing. It’s a testament to who he is.”