Red Sox: Free-agent shortstops setting the market for Xander Bogaerts

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 05: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to force out Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees during the eighth inning of the American League Wild Card game at Fenway Park on October 05, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 05: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to force out Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees during the eighth inning of the American League Wild Card game at Fenway Park on October 05, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is due for a raise

This year’s free-agent class is loaded with shortstops and we’ve already seen several of the top talents at the position land massive contracts. The eyes of Xander Bogaerts must be growing wide as he watches the market rise while pondering his own future with the Boston Red Sox.

Bogaerts will have an opportunity to opt-out of his team-friendly contract after the 2022 season. There would be $80 million remaining on his current deal at that point, counting the vesting option in 2026, a total he should easily eclipse on the open market.

This doesn’t mean that we should panic about Bogaerts leaving Boston. He’s been abundantly clear about his desire to remain in this organization and the Red Sox have been equally adamant that they view Bogaerts as a core piece of their future. Exercising the opt-out clause in his contract would be the first step toward reaching a new long-term agreement that pays him appropriately based on the current market conditions.

That market has taken a significant leap forward since Bogaerts signed his last deal in 2019, with this year’s crop of free-agents setting the bar higher than ever at the position.

Corey Seager (Rangers): 10-year, $325 million ($32.5 million AAV)
Marcus Semien (Rangers): 7-year, $175 million ($25 million AAV)
Javier Baez (Tigers): 6-year, $140 million ($23.3 million AAV)

A variety of factors differentiate each of these players from the scenario Bogaerts could soon find himself in but one thing is crystal clear – the star shortstop for the Red Sox is now grossly underpaid.

Since 2017, Bogaerts ranks second among major league shortstops with 22.0 WAR, per FanGraphs. He trails only Francisco Lindor (22.6 fWAR), who already received his massive 10-year, $341 million extension from the Mets earlier this year.

Semien (21.0 fWAR), Baez (15.7 fWAR) and Seager (15.2 fWAR) all land inside the top-10 at the position over the last five seasons.

Seager would rate even higher if it weren’t for injury wiping out the majority of his 2018 season. Those health concerns are well behind him and he has a World Series MVP to boost his value. The 27-year-old is also younger than the other two shortstops who have signed lucrative contracts this offseason, which explains why he received the longest deal in this free-agent class.

Bogaerts will be 30 years old when he gets the chance to opt-out and obviously can’t expect a 10-year deal. Semien is 31 years old and somehow managed to get a seven-year deal. He and Seager will both be in their age-37 seasons in the final years of their deals (Semien turns 38 in September of his final year, Seager will be 37 in April during the final year on his deal). While both contracts are examples of the Rangers aggressively overpaying in an effort to leap back into relevance, the market has been set nonetheless. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Bogaerts to demand an eight-year deal that runs through his age-37 season.

Baez received a shorter deal despite that he’s only about a year older than Seager and has a slightly higher fWAR over the last five years. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Baez also has an opt-out after two seasons and a limited no-trade clause. A longer deal that falls more in line with what his peers received would be meaningless as long as Baez remains healthy and productive enough to exercise the opt-out.

Bogaerts deserves a higher average annual value than Baez, but it’s possible that he would be open to a similarly shorter deal with an opt-out, allowing him to hit the market again a couple of years later. This would be ideal for the Red Sox since it avoids committing to a player until their age-37 season while keeping a path clear for top infield prospects Marcelo Mayer and Nick Yorke.

Semien and Baez are both capable shortstops who moved to second base to accommodate teams they joined that already had a shortstop. Bogaerts is currently locked in at shortstop but his poor defensive play will inevitably lead to a position change at some point. Shortstop is the most valuable of the infield positions so despite his superior offensive production, Bogaerts is unlikely to approach Seager’s average annual value on his next contract.

The closest comparison to Bogaerts would be Semien, who has produced similar value over the last five seasons. Semien is now locked in at second base for the Rangers, the position Bogaerts is likely to move to in the near future.

An average annual value that matches Semien’s $25 million is a reasonable projection for Bogaerts if he opts-out to sign a new contract next offseason. He might get an extra year considering he’ll be younger than Semien is now. An 8-year, $200 million deal could be within reach for Bogaerts.

Planning ahead for the additional financial commitment they expect to pay Bogaerts, along with a looming extension for Rafael Devers, is part of why the Red Sox have shown restraint in this free-agent market. They aren’t handing out mega-deals to free-agents when they have their own star players to take care of. At least not until we know what the rules pertaining to luxury tax penalties will be under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The new CBA could drastically alter the free-agent landscape before Bogaerts gets his next contract. There’s too much uncertainty for the Red Sox to offer him an extension until after the new CBA is in place. As long as there are no drastic changes to prohibit spending, this year’s class of free-agent shortstops provides us with a template for what the Red Sox should offer Bogaerts.

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