All things considered, Xander Bogaerts is having a very good season.
The Boston Red Sox are quite bad, they traded one of his best friends, and individually, he spent over a month playing hurt after colliding with Alex Verdugo earlier in the season. Refusing to abandon his team, he got multiple cortisone shots and soldiered on.
And yet, in his tenth year in the majors, the fan favorite is now hitting .319/.387/.473. As of Sunday, he’s homered four times in his last 18 games. He’s currently in the lead for the American League batting title, and he was an All-Star in June. His 37 doubles in 133 games so far are more than he hit in 144 games last year. He’s having one of the best defensive seasons of his career.
So, what’s the problem?
Midsummer, when Bogaerts couldn’t hit a home run if his life depended on it, there was more of a possibility that he would not opt out of his contract. Rather than negotiate with teams after a down year, he might have stayed in Boston, tried to turn things around in 2023, and either hoped to come to terms with the Sox by then or opted out next fall in the position to use free agency to his advantage.
Will Xander Bogaerts win the 2022 American League batting title?
But now, as he climbs MLB’s power rankings and swings for the batting title, it’s all but inevitable that he will opt out. And since the Red Sox appear to be fine letting him go, that will be the end of Bogaerts in Boston. Another homegrown star served up to eager rivals on a silver platter.
The beloved shortstop has made it clear on more than one occasion that Boston is where he wants to be. He reiterated the sentiment to the Boston Globe (subscription required) this week when asked about the batting title race and final slate of games:
"“I know it’s coming down to the finish line and obviously stuff might get a little emotional. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. As I said, I feel like I really need to be locked in, really need to be focused. I’m not saying just to get hits, but just to focus. I have to be on point I feel if I want to perform [well] with everything that’s going on.”Asked to clarify whether the “emotional” notion was because he could be nearing the end of his time in a Red Sox uniform, Bogaerts demurred.“I don’t want to say that, but I mean, who knows what happens, you know? I just want to enjoy these  games as much as possible,” replied Bogaerts. “I feel like I need to be extra focused. Hopefully I’m here for a long, long time, but I guess that’s not in my control.”"
There is no legitimate reason, no excuse the Sox can make that will justify letting Bogaerts go. Marcelo Mayer is years away. Jeter Downs is no Bogaerts. Trevor Story is doing splendidly at second base. And above all, Bogaerts is the proven player. He’s the one who handled the postseason as a 21-year-old rookie with only 18 regular-season games under his belt. He’s won two rings and four Silver Sluggers. He’s been at the forefront of Boston’s highest highs and navigated the lowest lows over the last ten years like a reassuring lighthouse in a storm, always there to light the way.
The Sox could shock the world and actually make good on their claims that they’d love nothing more than to keep Bogaerts around for the long haul, but history is not in their favor. After all, Jon Lester and Mookie Betts were homegrown World Series champs, too. The Sox lowballed them and then found trade partners to take the stars off their hands. If Bogaerts’ contract – the team-friendly deal he initiated in 2019 – didn’t have a full no-trade clause that would require the Sox to ask his permission to ship him off, he might be gone already.
When the trees turn bare and snow begins to float from the sky, someone will give Bogaerts the contract he deserves. Unfortunately, the better he gets, the less likely it becomes that it will be the team he truly wants.