On Monday, Xander Bogaerts officially opted out of the remainder of the team-friendly contract he initiated with the Boston Red Sox in 2019.
He hasn’t been wooed by any other teams yet – free agency doesn’t technically begin until Thursday – and the Sox are expected to extend a Qualifying Offer as a formality and strategic move. Understandably though, many fans are pessimistic about the possibility of Bogaerts returning to the team he’s been with since he was 16 years old.
For what feels like the umpteenth time in the last few months, Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom waxed poetic about the beloved shortstop, who is considered the unofficial captain of the team:
"“It’s disappointing because Xander has been [a] credit to this organization every day that he’s been in it. We want him here. He makes us better. We respect his right to exercise [the opt-out] and to explore the market. We want him back and we will stay engaged with him.”via Boston Globe (subscription required)"
It’s all pretty much par for the course with Bloom, and it’s a reiteration of what he and other Sox brass have been saying about Bogaerts for months. What are they doing about it, though?
Chaim Bloom says Red Sox want Xander Bogaerts back after opt-out
Of course, what’s really disappointing – to borrow Bloom’s word – is that this entire situation was avoidable. Had the Red Sox simply respected Bogaerts enough to make him a remotely-fair offer, none of this would be happening. Bogaerts makes this team infinitely “better,” and replacing what he brings to the table from an intangibles standpoint will be virtually impossible. His value is about so much more than analytics.
While Bloom said all the typical things about how the Sox need to ‘explore every option,’ he also showed his hand a bit, revealing that his mindset on Bogaerts differs from how ownership has handled free agency with homegrown stars in the past:
"“[Bogaerts is] our first choice. That’s not going to change. Part of our jobs is to explore every option to field a contending team next year and put together a really good group. We need to explore every possible way to do that, but Bogey’s our first choice.I should be clear about this: generally speaking, the thought process is to look past somebody you’re really familiar with for somebody else who you might see as similar but a little shinier. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. We’ve seen that for years in many different cases. So like I said, finding common ground with Xander is our first choice.Bogey is Option A.”"
The ‘grass isn’t always greener’ proverb is one I’ve used frequently to describe how the Sox view free agents compared to homegrown talent. Over the past two decades, a pattern has emerged of them undervaluing their proven players while overpaying outside options. They threw money at Pablo Sandoval and Carl Crawford, but let David Ortiz reach free agency more than once. They lowballed and traded Jon Lester and then overcorrected by giving David Price the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history at the time. Now, they’re rumored to be interested in Aaron Judge, which would be another overcorrection – and a mistake – for Mookie Betts.
Ultimately, ownership has the final say; Bloom will make his requests and recommendations, and they will acquiesce or decline. Fans might allow themselves to feel the slightest bit encouraged by Bloom’s declaration, though.
After all, there’s no place greener than Fenway Park.