Red Sox Rumors: Trading Xander Bogaerts would be a mistake
Hey, Boston Red Sox – don’t trade Xander Bogaerts!
The Boston Red Sox stumbled into the second half of the season by getting swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays, falling three games out of the final Wild Card spot with a frustratingly mediocre .500 record. With the trade deadline looming next week, the Red Sox are in danger of forcing themselves into a position to sell.
Boston has several desirable assets on expiring contracts who could be on the table in trade talks if they waive the white flag on the 2022 season. Among them is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who has an opt-out clause in his contract that enables him to forgo the $60 million remain over the next three years of his deal to test free agency after this season.
The Red Sox made a half-hearted attempt to sign Bogaerts to an extension last spring but their low-ball offer was swiftly rejected, bringing negotiations to a screeching halt. They essentially offered to give him the same deal he was already signed to with one additional year tacked on at the end for $30 million. That obviously wasn’t going to get it done.
Without the security of an extension locking him into the Red Sox lineup for the foreseeable future, a growing perception from the fan base and media is that Bogaerts already has one foot out the door. If they team isn’t in contention at the deadline, they have to trade their star shortstop in order to avoid losing him to free agency.
That would be a mistake.
His home run power has mysteriously declined but Bogaerts remains an offensive force. He leads major league shortstops with a .364 wOBA, he’s second with 134 wRC+ and fourth at the position with 3.7 WAR, per FanGraphs. His much-maligned defense has also improved toward league-average levels rather than a liability. Why wouldn’t the Red Sox make every effort to lock up that type of player?
While the sides seemed to be miles apart before the season started, there’s no reason to believe the gap will remain that wide. Negotiating can be a slow process that often comes down to the wire when the pressure of a deadline spurs both sides into action. Boston hasn’t put their best offer on the table yet. Just because the Red Sox failed to reach an agreement in the spring doesn’t mean they have given up on retaining Bogaerts.
The task of bringing Bogaerts back for the 2023 season and beyond becomes far more challenging if they trade him now. Xander has been pleading with the front office to acquire help at the deadline for a playoff push. That doesn’t sound like the words of a player who wants to be traded. Going against his wishes by sending him packing risks further deterioration of the relationship, which could reach a breaking point.
Did we learn nothing from the Jon Lester debacle? The Red Sox low-balled him with a ridiculous extension offer, then traded him to the Oakland A’s at the deadline when Boston’s season spiraled into the gutter. The Red Sox made a much more reasonable offer when Lester hit free agency after the season but they couldn’t top the lucrative contract that the Chicago Cubs gave him.
While they came up short in the free agency bidding war, at least the Red Sox made a fair offer in the end. Lester later hinted that he would have taken Boston’s deal if it had been offered before they traded him. He never envisioned wearing another uniform but getting a taste of life with another big league club opened his eyes to other possibilities.
The Red Sox can’t make the same mistake with Bogaerts. If they let him leave now, they can’t expect him to come back. Bogaerts isn’t going to accept a deal that is as team-friendly as his last extension with the Red Sox but he’s not hellbent on grabbing every last dollar either. A reasonable offer is all he’s asking for. His preference would be to stay with the only organization he’s ever known as long as their offer is at least in the same ballpark as his other suitors. If he finishes the season with another team, that advantage goes out the window.
Boston has a significant amount of money being shed from their payroll after this season. They currently have just over $60 million in guaranteed salary committed to next year’s roster if Bogaerts opts out. Arbitration and pre-arb salaries will further inflate the payroll but they will still be well below the luxury tax threshold. The Red Sox have plenty of money to lock up Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to new contracts with enough left over to fill out the roster.
The Red Sox have also been engaged in contentious negotiations with Devers on a long-term extension. Letting Bogaerts walk could hinder their chances to keep their superstar third baseman. Xander and Raffy are close friends who want to be here together. If Bogaerts were to leave, Boston might suddenly seem less appealing to Devers.
Trading Bogaerts at the deadline signals that the Red Sox aren’t interested in re-signing him. If they have no intention of keeping him, they have to get assets for him now. However, it would be baffling if Boston’s brass had already decided that they were no longer interested in one of the game’s best shortstops who also happens to be a clubhouse leader.
Many seem far too willing to assume that Bogaerts is on his way out of Boston. Call me optimistic, but I believe they can still hash out a fair deal even if they wait until after the season. That optimism will fade quickly if Bogaerts is traded at the deadline. If the Red Sox have any desire to reach a long-term deal with their star shortstop, they have to hang on to him for the rest of the season.