SAN DIEGO — The Winter Meetings are taking place in person for the first time since 2019 and baseball conversations are being held throughout the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
One topic that came up often among executives and agents on Monday: What are the Red Sox doing?
The Sox have claimed for months they want to retain star shortstop Xander Bogaerts. That they have since made what were described to me as unrealistic contract proposals clearly suggest otherwise.
That would be understandable if their plan was to sign one of the other premier shortstops on the market, but the Sox were not in the mix for Trea Turner before he signed with the Phillies and aren’t believed to be involved to any serious degree with Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson.
Turner’s deal with the Phillies is for 11 years and $300 million. The former Nationals and Dodgers star is nine months younger and more athletic than Bogaerts. There’s a better chance he remains a viable shortstop deeper into a long-term deal.
But they are comparable players offensively. Turner was valued at $27.3 million a season, which strongly suggests Bogaerts is, at worst, a $200 million player over seven or eight years.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the Sox “made some offers” before Bogaerts became a free agent and remain engaged with him. But there are no plans to meet with Bogaerts this week, as other teams are.
Friends say Bogaerts is holding out hope the Sox will make him a viable offer but is moving forward with other teams. It’s a game of musical chairs with the shortstops and he wants a good landing spot.
“Is there something about Bogaerts we’re not seeing?” asked one executive.
There’s not. He’s one of the best-hitting shortstops of his generation, a personable and accountable team leader who has comfortably handled the challenges of playing in Boston.
Bogaerts is a proven championship player who has earned MVP votes for five consecutive seasons. There’s not a single blemish on his resume.
Bloom said Monday that he would prefer Bogaerts but views Trevor Story as a good option to play shortstop. In previous discussions, Bloom had said the Sox wanted Story to stay at second base and only move to shortstop if necessary.
It was a subtle change of phrasing but a telling one.
Bloom envisions the Sox adding as many as seven or eight players to the roster via trade or free agency before next season. Relievers Chris Martin and Joely Rodriguez are the first two.
The Sox can afford Bogaerts and those other six or seven players; they’re one of the wealthiest teams in the game. But as each day of the offseason passes, it looks increasingly like they’ll make a series of mid-priced additions.
That worked for the Sox in 2013 when they went from last place to a championship. But that team already had David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury as a base of high-level talent.
This team, minus Bogaerts, has Rafael Devers and Story.
It’s hard not to wonder if the Red Sox are still operating in the deep end of the pool with teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Mets, and Padres, or if are they now a second-tier team seeking second-tier talent.
Bloom repeated the idea that the Sox are pursuing a future of perennial contention. He’s earnest about that and it’s certainly a worthy goal.
But aren’t the Sox a franchise with the capability of working the margins and using their financial clout to keep a player like Bogaerts?
Alex Cora said the Sox are going through a process with Bogaerts and the manager hasn’t given up on the idea of retaining his shortstop.
“We’ll see where it takes us,” he said. “There’s a business side of it and there’s a personal side of it. Going back to the business side, is the one you care about.
“We’re engaged, which is the most important thing. Hopefully the future of Xander Bogaerts is with the Boston Red Sox and the future of the Boston Red Sox is with Xander Bogaerts.”
That Bloom has let it drag on this long, going back to spring training, is hard to understand and the spin he put on the situation Monday didn’t change that.
There’s that question again: What are the Red Sox doing?