Making sense of the Red Sox negotiating tactics with Xander Bogaerts

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the sixth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during the sixth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Will the Boston Red Sox really let Xander Bogaerts walk away?

The Boston Red Sox made two things abundantly clear when this offseason began: 1) They have money to spend, 2) Xander Bogaerts is their top priority.

So when reports begin to surface that contradict those stated objectives, we’re left wondering what in the world is Chaim Bloom thinking?

According to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe, Bogaerts has been meeting in person with several interested suitors. Meanwhile, the Sox have not made a competitive offer to the All-Star shortstop. The perception is that the Sox have royally screwed up these negotiations, spoiling their chances of re-signing Bogaerts, who now has his eyes set on greener pastures.

But it’s extremely hard to believe that the Red Sox would let Bogaerts walk without a fight. That outcome goes against everything that the front office and ownership has been saying for the past few months. They’ve acknowledged that the ridiculous lowball offer from last spring, which essentially tacked on an extra year for $30 million to his existing team-friendly contract, was insufficient and they vowed to make a more compelling offer.

So why haven’t they? There are reasonable explanations for Bloom’s negotiating tactics.

We heard about the underwhelming offer that the Red Sox put on the table last spring. What we haven’t heard is what Bogaerts is asking for. Is he expecting Corey Seager money? As great as Bogaerts is, he’s unlikely to receive an average annual value north of $30 million and the 30-year old isn’t getting a 10-year offer. He can ask for the moon, it doesn’t mean he’ll get it. If that’s what Bogaerts considers a “competitive offer,” it’s clear why the Red Sox are willing to be patient.

It’s more likely that Bogaerts, or his agent, Scott Boras, hasn’t set a price. Setting a reasonable bar could entice the Red Sox to work fast to wrap up a deal rather than allowing Boras to create a bidding war. It’s in the best interest of the player and his agent to let clubs compete on the open market rather than do their job for them by telling them what it would take to sign Bogaerts.

There have been rumors that Bogaerts is willing to give the Red Sox an opportunity to match any offer he receives. If that’s true, it makes sense for the Red Sox to sit back and let the market determine his value. Why risk bidding against themselves with an offer that might exceed what anyone else is willing to pay him?

If the Red Sox made a “competitive offer,” Boras would undoubtedly shop it to other interested suitors to further drive up the price. Bloom is showing he’s not willing to play Boras’ games, preferring to let other clubs do the bidding knowing he has the advantage of matching any reasonable deal.

This speculation is all under the assumption that Boston does indeed have the opportunity to match the best offer. It’s a risky game for Bloom to play unless he’s been given assurances from Bogaerts. His inaction suggests that Bloom is confident that his team remains in position to strike with an offer once the market decides what Bogaerts is worth.

It’s important to note that while the Red Sox haven’t made a compelling offer, there aren’t any reports suggesting other teams have either. Complicating matters is that Bogaerts is one of four star shortstops in this free-agent class. Some teams that have prioritized one of the other shortstops might consider Bogaerts a fallback plan. It’s in Xander’s best interest to see which of them might jump into the sweepstakes for his services once other options are crossed off the board. We might need other dominoes to fall before Bogaerts is ready to make a decision.

Did the Red Sox screw this up? Of course, when you consider that they could have avoided this scenario by presenting a reasonable offer last spring to lock in an extension before he opted out of his previous contract. Is it fixable? Of course, as long as they are willing to pay up.

It’s going to cost the Red Sox a lot more than it would have if they hashed out a deal earlier but there’s still a realistic scenario that leads to Bogaerts returning to Boston. Bloom can’t possibly be sitting idle as he allows his star shortstop to walk away without putting in a legitimate offer. His patience is all a part of his negotiating plan. It has to be. Nothing else makes sense.