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Alex Speier

Will the Red Sox extend Bogaerts or Betts?

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts have emerged as star-caliber performers.AP

On the surface, it seemed that the midyear roster changes being made by the Red Sox paled in comparison to those that they made in 2014, when they traded away nearly all of their starting rotation. Yet as the 2015 season nears its conclusion, it’s become increasingly clear that the Red Sox have accomplished a more fundamental makeover this season than they did the previous year.

The Red Sox have created a new identity as a team built around a high-energy group of young players. I explore the elements that played into a mid-year transformation that has altered the outlook of the team.


The impression on new Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has been considerable.

“I love young players,” Dombrowski said recently. “I think this is an exciting group of core young players with others coming along.”

Yet with that emergence comes a source of intrigue: Might the Red Sox make an effort to extend members of the young core? The most obvious candidates for extensions, of course, would be Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, both of whom have emerged in their age-22 seasons as star-caliber performers.

With two-plus years of big league service time, Bogaerts is in a place where it’s not uncommon for players to receive extensions. The Sox extended Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz when they had two-plus years of big league service, buying out those players’ arbitration years and one year of free agency while securing at least one team option in each instance.

According to the MLBTradeRumors.com Extension Tracker, since 2010, there have been six extensions of at least five years for players with roughly Bogaerts’ service time. Three of those deals were for six years and just over $50 million (Jason Kipnis, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Carpenter and Justin Upton), one was for seven years and $80 million (Carlos Gonzalez, who, like Bogaerts, is represented by Scott Boras), and one for six years and $144 million for a player who hails from Krypton (Mike Trout).


Betts, as a player with a year and change of big league service time – a full five seasons removed from free agency – is in a more unusual spot for extensions that would stretch into potential free agent years. This decade, according to the Extension Tracker, there have been just two such deals: The seven-year, $58 million deal that shortstop Andrelton Simmons signed with the Braves in 2014 and the seven-year, $49.6 million deal that Christian Yelich signed with the Marlins this spring.

That’s a fairly limited group of comparable players, but those players offer at least a point of departure for potential conversations. Yet there’s another relevant history worth considering: Dombrowski’s approach to extensions.

With the Tigers, Dombrowski signed four players before they were eligible for free agency to extensions that included at least one free agent season. Aside from Curtis Granderson, who signed a five-year, $30.25 million deal when he had two years of service time, Dombrowski’s other three extensions came when players had reached four-plus years of service time: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Nate Robertson.

Extending circumstances
Dave Dombrowski signed Tigers to extensions before they were eligible for free agency
Year Player Service Time Contract year Dollars Option(s) FA Years bought
2008 Curtis Granderson 2.077 5 30.25 1 1
2008 Nate Robertson 4.086 3 21.25 0 1
2008 Miguel Cabrera 4.101 8 152.3 0 6
2010 Justin Verlander 4.002 5 80 0 3

The fact that Dombrowski waited until players had established track records before extending them may have been something other than coincidence. Those Tigers, like Dombrowski’s new team, were in a position where they didn’t risk losing players whom they didn’t sign to long-term deals after one or two years of time in the big leagues. Detroit could afford year-to-year contract talks before looking at extensions down the road; the Sox (who went year-to-year with Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury) are in a similar boat.


“The fortunate part is that we’re not faced with any major decisions with them right now. We’ve got time to make decisions. Sometimes I have found, experience teaches that sometimes patience, it’s better to wait if you can than to rush it,” said Dombrowski. “But it’s been very helpful for me to watch these young guys. You can point to, ‘Hey, this guy has a chance to be a really good core player for years to come.’”

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