If your first reaction to the staggering news that Xander Bogaerts had agreed to an 11-year, $280 million deal with the Padres was, “Well, that’s a crazy contract, the Red Sox never should have matched that,” you’re half-right and half a sucker.
It is a crazy contract in length if not average annual value, taking Bogaerts through his age-41 season, when there’s as much chance of him remaining at shortstop as there is of Don Orsillo winning the National League Cy Young Award this season.
But if you’re giving the Red Sox any credit whatsoever for not committing to that kind of deal, take your ridiculous carmine-colored blindfold off, because you’re missing the point. It should never have come to this, and I’d write that 280 more times in bold, all-caps type if I could get away with it.
The contract Bogaerts signed means nothing with regard to the Red Sox. Xander Bogaerts, San Diego Padre is an effect. The cause? The Red Sox’ casual indifference toward signing him for a much shorter and less-lucrative deal than he got when they had exclusive months to do so.
Chaim Bloom and Sam Kennedy said at various times along the way that retaining Bogaerts was the ball club’s priority. Such proclamations stand as a reminder to pay attention to actions, not words.
How serious were the Red Sox about retaining the 30-year-old Bogaerts, a two-time champion, four-time All-Star, and five-time Silver Slugger winner, and the heart and conscience of the clubhouse?
In March, they offered to tack a one-year, $30 million extension on the three years and $60 million remaining (which he ultimately opted out of) on the below-market deal he signed in 2019. In essence, they offered him a four-year, $90 million contract after they signed fellow shortstop Trevor Story for a six-year, $141 million deal.
Bogaerts helped recruit Story, someone he knew might be used as leverage against him. He did the selfless, team-oriented thing, and those in charge of the organization he had been a part of since he was 16 years old rewarded him by offering him $51 million less and two fewer years than the new guy, a lesser player.
The offer was a tone-deaf insult to a player who deserved so much better. Yet in May, Bogaerts said he would be open to his agent, Scott Boras — who contrary to perception works for his clients and not vice versa — sitting down with Red Sox ownership during the season to try to hammer out a deal. At the All-Star break in July, Boras said, “My ears are always open,” when asked about Bogaerts’s contract status.
And yet the Red Sox did nothing. There is no indication that they ever seriously attempted to keep a cornerstone player, the ideal of what a Red Sox star and leader should be, when they had the chance. You know they’d be shouting the length and terms of their best offer from atop the Green Monster right now if they ever had made a decent one.
By the time the Red Sox got around to offering him six years and $160 million in free agency, it was too late. Bogaerts had multiple suitors offering far better terms than that. Much as they did with Jon Lester eight years ago, the Red Sox allowed a dedicated, homegrown, model Red Sox player to discover that there are other appealing options to play baseball.
For a hot minute, I thought it was possible that the Red Sox didn’t want Bogaerts back at all, because … well, you know, that’s what their actions, or lack of action, seemed to indicate.
But ignoring their words and reconsidering those actions, including after Bogaerts went west, there really is just one logical conclusion for why they treated him the way that they did:
I don’t think they thought he would ever have the nerve to leave, and they would eventually get him at their price.
I’m convinced of this now. They knew he genuinely loved it here, and as they tried to turn his loyalty into their leverage Bogaerts went on the record again and again from spring training onward to reiterate his desire to remain in Boston, almost pleading at points. They got him to take a below-market deal three years ago, against the wishes of Boras, and figured in the end they might be able to do it again.
That’s the only explanation for Bloom’s stunned response, beautifully documented in Friday’s newspaper by colleague Julian McWilliams, when the Red Sox got word Bogaerts was taking the Padres’ offer. They didn’t expect him to get an offer of that magnitude. They expected all other offers to be in the ballpark of the six-year deal they eventually got around to proposing, and they assumed he wouldn’t be the wandering type if all things were relatively equal.
It’s the only conclusion that makes sense. The massive offer that brought Bogaerts to San Diego came to be only because of the Red Sox’ special combination of arrogance and negligence. They were so misguided in their pathetic desperation to win the deal that they lost a player who should have been a Red Sox for life.
Don’t be suckered by the outcome and the jackpot. Don’t give them the excuse. The Red Sox had months to keep Xander Bogaerts. Imagine if they’d had the sense to try.
- Why Xander Bogaerts chose to sign with the Padres over the Red Sox
- On the day the Red Sox introduced Kenley Jansen, a lot of the questions were about how Xander Bogaerts got away
- Will Trevor Story’s arm hold up if the Red Sox call upon him to take over at shortstop?