The Boston Red Sox could have their eye on free agent shortstops
What could be better than the Boston Red Sox having one of the best shortstops in baseball? How about rostering two of the best. According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, the Red Sox “could be a sleeper” in the free-agent shortstop market.
That may come as a surprise considering the Red Sox already have Xander Bogaerts manning the position, hence why they are viewed as a “sleeper” team. However, targeting a free-agent market flush with talent at the shortstop position could be a crafty way for Chaim Bloom to upgrade his roster.
This isn’t by any means a sign that the Red Sox are ready to move on from Bogaerts, who can opt out of the final three years of his six-year, $120 million contract at the end of the 2022 season. ESPN’s Joon Lee reported following Boston’s postseason exit that Bogaerts is expected to opt-out but hopes to finish his career with the Red Sox by signing a new long-term deal.
Much can change within a year though. If anything were to sour Bogaerts’ view of the organization between now and then, it’s possible he could opt-out with the intention of leaving. The Red Sox need to be prepared for any scenario.
If ever there was a time to search for a new shortstop, this is the offseason to do it. This year’s crop of free agents is loaded at the shortstop position, including Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javier Báez, and Marcus Semien.
Bogaerts, who rates below-average or worse by most defensive metrics, is reportedly open to switching positions at some point down the road. Perhaps that path opens as soon as next season. The idea would be to move Bogaerts to second base if they land one of the elite shortstops in this free-agent market. If the pairing works, the Red Sox could have two All-Star middle infielders for the foreseeable future. If Bogaerts unexpectedly leaves after next season, Boston already has another shortstop locked in.
Speaking of opt-outs, the Red Sox are awaiting a decision from J.D. Martinez on his player option. If he declines the option and bolts in free agency, the assumption is that the Red Sox would turn their attention to re-signing Kyle Schwarber, who is essentially a lock to decline his $11.5 million mutual option.
While Schwarber was highly productive and instantly connected with the fans following the deadline deal that sent him to Boston, the top free-agent shortstops could be viewed as better long-term investments. Letting both Martinez and Schwarber walk while committing those financial resources to a shortstop would allow the Red Sox to make Rafael Devers their primary designated hitter. Bogaerts could then move to third base in that scenario.
Improving the infield defense should be a priority for the Red Sox. Bogaerts has good instincts in the field and a decent throwing arm. He doesn’t pile up errors at an alarming rate but his lack of range prevents him from getting to many ground balls that most shortstops would turn into outs. Any of the top shortstops in this free-agent class would be an upgrade defensively and Bogaerts would be less of a liability at second or third where range isn’t quite as essential.
Much of the focus this offseason will center around the decision between keeping Martinez or Schwarber but by pivoting to a shortstop instead, Boston can bring in another impact bat while drastically improving their infield defense.
The common perception is that the Red Sox will stay out of the shortstop market since it’s not an area of need but the reality is that signing one the top talents at the position might be exactly what this team needs to take the next step toward championship contention.