LAS VEGAS — For Xander Bogaerts and dozens of other players, free agency begins in earnest at 5 p.m. on Thursday, when they gain the right to sign with any team.
On Wednesday, agent Scott Boras underlined the gamble the Red Sox have taken by allowing their star shortstop to wade into those waters.
“The demand for a double-ring championship player, a leader, a player that they know can play in any market, is certainly what we thought it would be and more,” he said.
“And certainly the Red Sox, at the ownership level, have been communicative, [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] and everybody involved. So, we’re going through the process.”
Boras, alone among agents, conducted a news conference at Major League Baseball’s GM Meetings. He arrived ready for questions about Bogaerts with quips about the X-Men of the Marvel universe. There were some references to Humphrey Bogart, too.
Then he got serious. Going back to March, extension talks between Boras and the Sox have been fruitless. He believes it will come down to how principal owner John Henry and team chairman Tom Werner want to proceed.
“They’ve won four times in 20 years. So, when you go to look at that, you say, are these men to be questioned? Are they committed?” Boras said.
“The reality of it is, I think when they’ve been presented with information, they’ve responded correctly. That’s kind of all I look at. Our doors are open.”
The Giants, Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, and Twins are among the teams in the market for a shortstop.
“When you get to those moments, I can never predict what will happen,” Boras said. “All I can say is the demand — these are special players, they’re people who are Silver Slugger winners, they’ve MVP-type players, they’re leaders.
“They’re franchise players, and those types of things — and in certain markets, players who can play well there, that has to be understood.
“With Xander, you certainly have the definition of who he is and the quality of who he is. It’s a very risky proposition not to have that player on your team.”
The Sox received some unexpected good news when lefthander James Paxton, another Boras client, picked up his $4 million option for next season.
Paxton, 34, was signed to a one-year, $10 million contract this past season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Sox were hopeful he would return by August, but a shoulder strain and subsequent setbacks kept him out all season outside of facing two batters in a Rookie League game.
The team declined a $13 million option for 2023, but Paxton decided to stay with the Sox rather than become a free agent.
“He really felt that the best thing at this point in his career was to stay with the people he had been working with. So, he certainly decided to do that,” Boras said. “He was throwing at the end of the season and felt great. He’s ready to go to spring training.”
Paxton has pitched only 21⅔ major league innings over the last three seasons. But he was 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts for the Yankees in 2019.
If healthy, Paxton offers a low-cost rotation option.
Where this leaves the Sox with Rich Hill is uncertain. The 42-year-old lefthander has said he wants to return after going 8-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 26 starts in 2022.
General manager Brian O’Halloran said the team was pleased to have Paxton back given their desire to have ample rotation depth. Paxton was throwing in the mid 90s before the shoulder problem.
Refsynder deal in place
Pending a physical, the Sox have a one-year, $1.2 million deal in place with outfielder Rob Refsynder. The deal included $100,000 in performance bonuses. Refsynder hit .307 with an .881 OPS over 57 games and 177 plate appearances this past season. He had a 1.005 OPS against lefthanded pitchers and was above average defensively. “We’re glad to have him back,” O’Halloran said … Teams have a 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday to extend $19.65 million qualifying offers to any eligible free agents. Bogaerts is sure to receive one, while J.D. Martinez almost certainly will not. The Sox are open to negotiating with righthanders Nate Eovaldi and Michael Wacha ahead of the deadline before making decisions on their status … O’Halloran said the Sox sent righthanders Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock into the winter with instructions to prepare as starters for next season. In Houck’s case, it was with the caveat that he could well end up in the bullpen … The Sox traded righthanded reliever Easton McGee to Seattle for cash considerations. McGee was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay on Oct. 5.