Latest Xander Bogaerts rumor is terrifyingly realistic

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 17: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 17: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Could Boston lose Xander Bogaerts to former Red Sox executive? Latest rumor is very plausible…

As the Boston Red Sox season winds down, the Xander Bogaerts rumor mill is revving up.

Any team with money to spend and an ounce of sensibility will be interested in the decorated shortstop, who brings everything from postseason experience to veteran leadership to his team. He’s currently in the lead for the American League batting title, hitting .318 with 37 doubles and 13 home runs. This is his fourth All-Star season, third consecutive (there was no Midsummer Classic in 2020). He’s played more games at shortstop than any other man at his position in franchise history. He’s broken and tied Red Sox records left and right all summer. He’s won two World Series rings and four Silver Slugger awards, and he’s only 29.

Who wouldn’t want him? The Sox, apparently.

If Bogaerts opts out of the team-friendly deal he signed in 2019, which is likely, he will be linked to almost everyone. Some teams will be more realistic contenders to sign him than others. But the latest rumor isn’t so much rumor as it is inevitable fact:

That former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, will seek to reunite with Bogaerts by signing him to the Philadelphia Phillies.

According to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (subscription required),

"“…if the Sox let Xander Bogaerts get to the open market, the Phillies will be eager suitors.”"

Dombrowski’s name has been spoken in far warmer, often wistful tones this season, as many Sox fans claim that had he not been fired in mid-September 2019, Bogaerts and Devers would have new deals. It’s not absurd speculation, either; the timing of his departure was terrible for the Sox third baseman. Ownership ousted the longtime exec towards the end of Devers’ breakout season, when he led the American League with 54 doubles and all of MLB with 359 total bases, finishing 12th in MVP voting. Had Dombrowski remained at the helm, a ‘Carita’ extension would’ve been the logical offseason move.

But back to Bogaerts, because there are so many reasons why Dombrowski targeting Bogaerts makes sense that it’s terrifying to ponder. Let’s break it down:

1. Dombrowski pays

Dombrowski is known for spending big on marquee players and getting superstars via trade. He signed David Price to the richest pitching contract in MLB history, got Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, and found a man to somewhat replace David Ortiz, which was a tall order, indeed. Had the Sox kept him, he likely would’ve given Devers the contract he deserved after 2019, and been happy to give Bogaerts a raise, too.

2. Phillies ownership spends

Even though they haven’t won anything in over a decade, the Phillies consistently have one of the highest payrolls in the game. But this year, Dombrowski convinced them to exceed the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history, and now they’re holding the second Wild Card. They also have a significant amount of money coming off the books after this year, not to mention superstar pitching prospects (Mick Abel, Andrew Painter) set to debut in the next few years under club control, giving them plenty of room to sign Bogaerts.

Meanwhile, the Sox fired Dombrowski and replaced him with Chaim Bloom from the spendthrift Tampa Bay rays. He’s only given out one contract in excess of two years since they hired him, and it was to someone other than Bogaerts who can play shortstop: Trevor Story.

3. Phillies look like a postseason team and Bogaerts could put them over the top

When Dombrowski took over the Sox in August 2015, they were about to finish the season with a 78-84 record, fifth in the division. The following year, they won the division but got swept by Cleveland in the ALDS. So, Dombrowski assessed the team’s needs and added difference-makers, including Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel.

In 2017, the Sox again won the division and lost to Houston in the ALDS, but this time, they did not get swept. Dombrowski again looked at the gaping holes (David Ortiz’s retirement left a pretty sizable hole) and signed JD Martinez.

In 2018, the Sox won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and bulldozed their way through the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers to win their fourth championship in 15 years.

When the Phillies hired Dombrowski in December 2020, they knew his track record. He’s a big spender, but he gets results. The Phillies own the longest postseason appearance drought in the National League, but they’re currently holding the second NL Wild Card. If they make the postseason this year, but do not go deep into October, Bogaerts is exactly the kind of difference-maker Dombrowski will target to get his new team over the hump next year, just as he used to do in Boston.

4. Bogaerts is great at mentoring young players

The Sox signed Bogaerts when he was 16, and he made his debut as a 20-year-old in 2013. He only played 18 regular-season games that year,

In the years since, he’s played on several division-title teams, a second World Series team, and last year, a team that shattered expectations and went all the way to Game 6 of the ALCS.

By comparison, the Phillies currently have Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto, the two leaders among active players in most career games played without appearing in a postseason game. They need someone like Bogaerts, who’s not only played in October but won.

Much of the Phillies’ success this season can be attributed to their new young core of Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Matt Vierling, and Nick Maton, a group fondly dubbed ‘Phillies day care’ as an allusion to their youth. Bogaerts was younger than any of them when he made his debut, and by the end of his first two months in the majors, he was a World Series champ. They could learn a lot from him, as players like Devers have. Even their older players don’t have much postseason experience to speak of. Bogaerts’ knowledge and firsthand exposure to the high-stakes games would be invaluable.

5. Dombrowski has a history of sticking with his favorite players

When Dombrowski likes a player, he finds ways to bring him along for the next ride. Previous examples include Price, Martinez, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, and Nick Castellanos, to name a few. He was happy to extend Bogaerts in 2019; he’ll be even happier to stick it to Boston by giving the beloved shortstop the contract he deserves now.

6. Bogaerts shares agent Scott Boras with several Phillies

Bogaerts is repped by MLB’s biggest shark, Scott Boras, an agent known for encouraging his players to test free agency in order to get the biggest possible contract. As of this year, Axios reports that he’s been the mastermind behind nine of the 23 MLB contracts of $200+ million, including six record-setting deals.

The shortstop already went against his advice in the past and approached the Sox about an extension in 2019, the extremely team-friendly deal to which he’s currently signed. But currently, the Sox are dealing with a bit of a messy Boras situation with James Paxton, who missed the entire season with Tommy John and then a lat tear in his first rehab game. If the Sox don’t want to pick up his pricy option (which they shouldn’t), Paxton can still opt into a player option. In a just world, the connection shouldn’t impact Bogaerts, but with how terrible the roster construction was this year, dealing with Boras may not be something Bloom is eager to do.

Meanwhile, Boras reps several Phillies, including Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Bohm, and Stott. Dombrowski wasn’t in charge when the Phillies signed or drafted any of them, but he’s worked with Boras plenty in the past, including on Bogaerts’ 2019 extension.

7. Bogaerts can handle playing in a high-stakes environment

Not many players thrive under the harsh spotlights of baseball’s most demanding markets. On the east coast, that’s Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

But Bogaerts has spent a decade in Boston and his numbers, awards, and rings speak for themselves. He doesn’t just survive the pressure, he thrives here. Ortiz vouched for him in one of his many interviews this summer in which he publicly campaigned for the Sox to lock in Bogaerts and Devers:

"“[Bogaerts and Devers] know how to handle it. They know how it is to play in Boston. Trust me. Playing in Boston is not for every type of player. I played there for so long. It’s a distraction for a lot of players. They don’t know how to handle it.”"

Sox and Phillies fans are different, but the underlying emotions and demands are the same: they want to win.

So does he.

For all these reasons and probably a few more, it’s highly likely that Bogaerts could be wearing red pinstripes next summer instead of Red Sox.

But it shouldn’t happen.

If the Red Sox let Bogaerts leave, it will be catastrophic, unacceptable, and flat-out absurd. But if they let him walk straight into the arms of their former exec, it will also be downright embarrassing.

Update: Phillies reportedly have ‘real interest’ in Xander Bogaerts

11/13/22: According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Phillies have ‘real interest’ in Bogaerts.

The Phillies went all the way to the World Series and gave the Houston Astros a tough time before eventually losing to them in six games. After such a dominant postseason performance, expect the Phillies to be even more aggressive this offseason than previously anticipated.

Update: Phillies sign Trea Turner instead of Xander Bogaerts

The Phillies are in agreement with another superstar shortstop, effectively taking them out of the Bogaerts sweepstakes. On December 5, they signed Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300M contract.