Xander Bogaerts takes jab at Red Sox finances while asking for Boston return

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 28: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the dugout before playing the Toronto Blue Jays in the in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on June 28, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 28: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the dugout before playing the Toronto Blue Jays in the in their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on June 28, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox can afford to pay up for Xander Bogaerts

The Boston Red Sox face pivotal decisions this offseason that will shape the future of this franchise for years to come.

Xander Bogaerts is at the center of it all.

Within five days of the end of the World Series, Bogaerts will need to make a decision on the opt-out provision in his contract that would allow him to test free agency. At this point, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Bogaerts, who is undoubtedly underpaid on his current team-friendly deal, will trigger the opt-out.

While that is far from a guarantee that he will be wearing another uniform next season, the fan-favorite shortstop says the Red Sox haven’t had any recent talks with him about a new contract. Team officials and manager Alex Cora have constantly stated their desire to keep Bogaerts in Boston, though they insulted him with a lowball offer in spring training and a more reasonable offer hasn’t materialized since.

With the two sides appearing to be miles apart on an agreement, Bogaerts recently pointed to the financial flexibility the organization has entering this offseason as an encouraging sign that the front office will spend to brighten their future:

"“They have money. If you want good players and you have money, it shouldn’t be hard, I would guess… If you have money, you have prospects coming up. They’re saying there’s a lot of money coming off the books or whatever they’re saying, so that makes them have even more money.”via MassLive"

The Red Sox payroll topped $235 million for luxury tax purposes this season, per FanGraphs. That figure should be trimmed by more than half with their financial commitments for next season. Boston has at least $85M coming off the books from players eligible for free agency after this season, including $20M from Bogaerts if he opts out. That total could increase depending on how options for James Paxton and Tommy Pham are handled. David Price’s $16M is finally wiped clean from their payroll in addition to over $5M they paid for other players who were bought out from contract options.

That’s a lot of money that the team can save compared to this year’s payroll, although it does overestimate how much they can actually spend if they intend to stay within striking distance of the dreaded luxury tax, which they will be penalized for exceeding this year.

Boston’s current financial commitments for next season fall well short of the threshold, which will get a slight bump to $233M in 2023. Excluding all club, player, and mutual options, the current 2023 luxury tax payroll is less than $50M. However, that number only accounts for guaranteed salaries, not the club, player, and mutual options that could be picked up, or arbitration-eligible and league minimum players.

While several of the hefty contracts being shed from the payroll create holes that need to be filled, some roles can be filled internally. As Bogaerts insinuated with his comment about prospects coming up, Triston Casas is securing his role as the everyday first baseman with his late-season audition. The Sox can utilize the versatility of their roster to rotate players through the designated hitter spot in the likely event that they don’t bring back JD Martinez. Boston has three starting pitchers hitting free agency and it’s unlikely that all three – if any – will return. One of their spots should be reserved from Brayan Bello, whose pre-arb salary offers significant savings over a veteran free-agent starter. The Red Sox could explore another transition to the rotation for Garrett Whitlock, whose salary on the contract extension he signed this year would be a bargain for a starting pitcher.

There’s no excuse for the Red Sox lacking the funds to include Bogaerts in their 2023 payroll. The length of the deal for a player on the verge of turning 30 years old would be the greater concern potentially derailing the sides from hashing out an agreement. However, Chaim Bloom’s recent comments regarding Xander’s defensive improvement and the off-field intangibles he brings to the club suggest that Boston’s Chief Baseball Officer recognizes the value of the star shortstop.

As Bogaerts said, teams need to spend money if they want good players. Bogaerts, who is third in the American League with a .310 batting average, sixth among AL position players with 5.5 WAR and leads all major league shortstops with a .839 OPS, is clearly among the elite. The Red Sox clearly have money to spend with so many expensive salaries coming off their books and cost-effective ways to replace at least some of those departing players.

This really shouldn’t be that hard. While a portion of Red Sox Nation is convinced that Bogaerts already has one foot out the door, those concerns seem overblown. Bogaerts is due for a well-deserved raise and the Red Sox are well-positioned to pay the man.

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