OAKLAND, Calif. — The Red Sox made it official Monday. They have extended the contract of Xander Bogaerts to the tune of six years and $120 million.
I love this move. It works on every level.
Bogaerts would have been a free agent at the end of this season. The Sox have no ready backup in their system. Letting Bogaerts play out his contract was a big risk. Now they know who’s going to be playing shortstop through 2025, potentially 2026. Ambassador Bogaerts will join Johnny Pesky, Rico Petrocelli, Rick Burleson, and Nomar Garciaparra as Red Sox shortstop royalty.
Bogaerts thanked everyone in a 12-minute press conference (televised live on NESN and attended by just about every teammate) in a cramped room at the old Alameda County Coliseum on Monday afternoon. He thanked John Henry. Tom Werner. Michael Gordon. Agent Scott Boras. Dave Dombrowski. Brian O’Halloran. Raquel Ferreira. Mike Fiore. His mom. His uncle. His brother. His sister. His teammates.
“Here’s where I grew up as a 16-year-old kid with no facial hair and now I got so much going on,’’ said Bogaerts. “I know how proud they are of me and I’m very thankful for them. I won two rings with this organization and the group we had last year, it goes beyond just regular guys. It’s like a real family. Guys that I grew up playing with the minor leagues — Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes. Just seeing them grow as players, and helping the Red Sox win championships. Mookie Betts. I’m really blessed to have a great group of guys like that behind me, pushing me to be better. Alex Cora, who has helped me become the player that I am today.’’
It was like an Oscars acceptance speech. When Bogaerts launched into a list of his minor league coaches, I thought I heard a piano tinkling in the background.
“I’m blessed,’’ he concluded. “If I forgot someone, sorry, but thank you.’’
Boras, famous for encouraging players to get to the open market to find their ultimate worth, acknowledged, “This allows him to do something that was important to him and that was remain with his teammates. He is very close to this group and he really welcomes and enjoys the opportunity to play with a group he was raised with. That’s who Xander Bogaerts is. The overriding theme I heard from Xander was, ‘We have a lot more left with us. I want to be with these guys.’ ’’
Bogaerts’s teammates broke into applause when the press conference ended.
In my view there was way too much noise about Betts and not enough about Bogaerts during spring training. Granted, Betts is a super-human talent, a reigning MVP, and he will probably make Mike Trout money when he signs his next deal. But the Sox still have Betts under contract for this season and next. And Betts sounds very much like a guy who wants to play out his deal and find out what he is worth — like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
Machado, a natural shortstop like Bogaerts, was a free agent last winter and got $300 million over 10 years from the Padres. Bogaerts is going to be making two-thirds of that for the next six years. Any of you think Machado is worth $10 million per year more than Bogaerts? Certainly Machado has more raw talent, offensively and defensively, but he’s become a big league bowser the past three years and has numbers remarkably similar to Bogaerts. From 2016-18, Machado hit .283 with an OPS of .855. Bogaerts was .286, .808.
A player can always get hurt — Dustin Pedroia signed a team-friendly eight-year, $110 million deal in 2013 that’s looking shaky for the final four — but the Bogaerts deal strikes me as particularly team friendly, considering that Bogaerts is a Boras client who’d probably get more on the open market.
We know the Boston Baseball Experience is not for everybody, but Bogaerts seems to genuinely like playing here. He’s been with the organization since he signed as a 16-year-old out of Aruba in 2009 — Theo Epstein is the gift that keeps on giving, Sox fans — and the only time he’s pouted was when the Sox hired Stephen Drew and moved Bogey to third base during the ill-fated, last-place 2014 season.
“The fans of Boston expect winning,’’ Bogaerts acknowledged.
The Sox have a thin farm system and a lot of big talent coming up for pay raises (or freedom) in the next two years. Rick Porcello can walk at the end of the year and J.D. Martinez can opt out. But at least the Sox know that they’ve got Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale locked up through 2022.
This is important when you have Dave “Win Now” Dombrowski running your team. Dombrowski left the Tigers with nothing when he came to Boston in 2015. You do not want the 2021 Red Sox to look like today’s Detroit Tigers. The Bogaerts signing diminishes the chance of that horrid scenario.
Bogaerts may not be Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa, but he’s been an All-Star starter (2016), has two World Series rings, and finished 13th in MVP voting last year. Not bad for a 26-year-old shortstop who on most nights hits No. 5 for the best offense in baseball.
And now he is your shortstop. For a long, long time.