Red Sox legends warn team amidst Xander Bogaerts uncertainty

BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez hugs Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox in the batting cage ahead of a pre-game ceremony honoring David Ortiz's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame before a game against the Cleveland Guardians on July 26, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez hugs Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox in the batting cage ahead of a pre-game ceremony honoring David Ortiz's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame before a game against the Cleveland Guardians on July 26, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Will the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts a new contract?

For months, current and former Boston Red Sox players have spoken on Xander Bogaerts’ behalf.

Pay him. Keep him. Do whatever you need to do. We aren’t a better team if we lose him.

David Ortiz called them stupid. Trevor Story doesn’t want to replace him. Matt Barnes calls him the captain. Dennis Eckersley raved about the decorated shortstop every chance he got in his final season in the Sox boothBrock Holt threatened to “burn it to the ground” if Bogaerts is not back next year. “It,” presumably, is America’s oldest and most beloved ballpark.

The question is whether the Sox will listen and avoid the figurative (and hopefully not literal) pyrotechnics.

As baseball is a team sport, there will be serious implications for the club if Bogaerts is not back next year. They wouldn’t just lose his production from the lineup and improved defense; in Boston, it’s never solely about numbers.

This week, Pedro Martinez became the latest Sox figure to warn of the significant consequences:

"“If Xander opts out and leaves the team and J.D. [Martinez] leaves the team, I think [Rafael] Devers is most likely going to head the same way. Those guys are going to go. They’re not going to have the essence of the franchise that we left. The culture that we left is going to be lost. And we don’t know when we’re going to get it back and how we’re going to get it back.”via Boston Globe (subscription required)"

No lies detected.

There is no addition by subtraction here. If the Sox do not retain Bogaerts, they won’t just lose one of the most productive offensive players in the game, but their unofficial captain, as well. That is a far more devastating and truly incalculable loss.

And as I, Pedro, and many others keep pointing out, there’s no guarantee that Devers will want to stay in Boston without Bogaerts. The Sox say that they won’t consider trading Devers and want to build around him, but they need to understand that the two players are essentially a package deal at this point. They have a brother/little brother relationship, and that bond has been crucial to Devers’ development since his 2017 debut. In the final days of the season, Devers made it clear how important Bogaerts, whom he actually calls his “brother,” is to him and the team:

"“I hope it happens… they sign Bogey longterm and then me longterm…We know how important Bogaerts is for the team not only as a player but also as a person. And we don’t know what conversation is going on between him and the team. But for me personally, he’s just a big part of the team and he’s always been here in Boston. So for me, he’s a friend, he’s family, so I wish he’d stay here.Since I came up, he always took me under his wing… We know the type of player that he is, the way he takes care of himself, the way carries himself on the field and off the field. That’s something you always look up to. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to share those moments with him and to be able to follow him and to always look up to him. So it’s very important.”via MassLive"

So yes, it’s quite easy to see Devers shutting down his own negotiations and following Bogaerts to another team when he becomes a free agent next year. And another team will scoop them up faster than discounted PlayStation5s on Black Friday. To say that this is a pivotal moment and that losing them would be catastrophic are the understatements of the millennium. The Sox were fortunate to recover from trading Mookie Betts; they would not be so lucky this time around.

Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz warn Red Sox that not keeping Xander Bogaerts could mean losing Rafael Devers, too

Martinez, arguably the greatest pitcher this team has ever had, is not the only legendary franchise figure weighing in this week. For what feels like the dozenth time this year, David Ortiz also advocated on Bogaerts’ behalf:

"“I played with Bogey, and I know what I’m getting from him. If there’s a player you want to keep on your team until the last day he wants to play, he’s one of them.”also via Boston Globe"

What’s especially noteworthy is that Martinez and Ortiz are both currently employed by the organization, and yet, still feel strongly enough to speak out. In Ortiz’s case, several times.

But it makes sense that Ortiz and Martinez are aligned on this – though, most rational people in the baseball world are – because in a way, their own relationship mirrors Bogaerts’ and Devers’. The decorated pitcher pushed for the Sox to sign a virtually-unknown Ortiz after the Minnesota Twins released him, and then he made sure he was in the lineup. Because of that, they made history. And the ripple effect of Martinez sticking his neck out for Ortiz reverberates to this day.

Ortiz is where he is today because of Martinez, and he says so often. They also call one another “brother.” And when Ortiz waited for the call from the Hall of Fame last winter, Martinez was the one standing there, a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He was the first person Ortiz hugged when he found out that he would be joining him, enshrined together forever in baseball’s greatest sanctum.

That could be Bogaerts and Devers someday. Both players are on their way to receiving Hall of Fame votes. Red Sox have the power to keep it going and ensure that those bronze plaques bear the Boston cap.

The last remaining member of the 2013 team, Bogaerts is the common thread linking back to this franchise’s glory days. The 30-year-old shortstop is one of a select few in today’s game with two World Series rings. He’s one of the only players on the roster who overlapped with Ortiz. That overlap was crucial to Bogaerts’ and several other young players’ development. Ortiz often speaks of Martinez’s and Manny Ramirez’s invaluable mentorship and how he paid that forward for the next group of Sox players. Bogaerts was one of them, and he’s been continuing that endeavor with Devers and countless others. There is no way to replace something like that; it’s not something money can buy, except in the form of paying Bogaerts to continue being himself.

Less than a week into the offseason, this is getting absurd. No, this has been absurd for a while now. Paying Trevor Story when they could’ve simply paid Bogaerts was absurd. Their paltry offer to Bogaerts in the spring was insulting and absurd. And all of their effusive gushing to the media about how much they love Bogaerts continues to be absurd and will remain as such until they pay him.

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