Red Sox failure to bring Xander Bogaerts home will cost them Rafael Devers

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox hugs Rafael Devers #11 as he exits the game during the seventh 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 hugs Rafael Devers #11 as he exits the game during the seventh 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) /

Xander Bogaerts is a San Diego Padre.

At the eleventh hour on Wednesday night, Jon Heyman broke the news and the hearts of Red Sox Nation.

The Padres are giving Bogaerts eleven years and $280M. There are no opt-outs, and he has a full no-trade clause. If he plays through the deal in its entirety, he will spend more time in a Padres uniform than he did in a Red Sox one. If he goes into the Hall of Fame one day, there could very well be a ‘P’ instead of a ‘B’ on the cap on his bronze plaque.

There aren’t strong enough words to convey how awful and astounding this is for fans, especially after several media members gave them so much hope mere hours before. Sox fans should know better by now, though; at some point, Charlie Brown has to stop believing that Lucy will actually let him kick that dang football.

Bogaerts will go down in franchise history as one of this club’s greatest players. Not because he hit the most home runs or played the best defense, but because the totality of his being – as a player and human – makes him incredibly special. At the plate, he’s consistently one of the best hitters in the league at his position, and on the diamond, he played more games than any other shortstop in Sox history. In the clubhouse, he was the captain, even without the ‘C’ on his jersey. He didn’t care about the title, nor did he need it to be a leader who held himself accountable after even the worst games.

The Sox have no excuse for losing him. Not because they should’ve given him what the Padres are; he’ll be 41 by the time that contract runs its course. As durable and productive as he’s been in the first decade of his career, it’s an excessive offer buoyed by the frustration and humiliation of losing Trea Turner and Aaron Judge to teams who made lower bids. But it’s not about how many years or millions Bogaerts is getting from the Padres, but why he’s getting it all from them. The public outcry stems from the unimpeachable fact that this happened because of how poorly the Sox treated him last spring through this week. Had they valued him enough to make him a fair offer when the MLB lockout ended in March, there’s a good chance he’d still be here, and the months of agonizing over his destination would never have happened. What a lovely, stress-free alternate reality that is.

No one should fault Bogaerts. He spent so many years trying to get the Red Sox to see his worth, but down to the last day, they never truly did. Their last offer him was six years, $160M; at least three other teams offered him more than $200M. The Sox have given out exactly one contract in excess of $160M in their history, to David Price in 2015.

Bravo to Bogaerts for finally walking away from this one-sided relationship. He gave the Sox every possible chance, and they gave him nothing in return. Worse yet, they lavished him with praise to the media and public and proved their words were empty with hubristic decision-making. They signed Trevor Story last March, and Bogaerts helped recruit him, despite knowing he was enticing someone who could very well take his job. Imagine how that must have felt. Then, around the same time that they made Story the sixth-highest-paid player in franchise history, they lowballed Bogaerts beyond belief. Their “offer” to him last spring was a mere year and $30M tacked on to the team-friendly deal he initiated in 2019.

In retrospect, it’s safe to assume he would’ve been gone long ago, given how so many of his teammates have ended up. But Bogaerts had a full no-trade clause in his contract and he made it clear that he never wanted to be anywhere else. Sox leadership shouldn’t dare try to refute that fact. He gave them countless opportunities to reopen negotiations during the season, something Rafael Devers will not do. The Sox continued to do nothing. They insulted Bogaerts by gambling that his love for the team would supersede how they treated him. Good for him for knowing when to leave the table.

When the Sox traded Mookie Betts in February 2020, they used the bloated payroll and blighted farm, problems of their own creation, as excuses. But they also looked people in the eye and told them that making the trade would enable them to never have to do so again.

Oops! They did it again.

This time around, the excuses of the Betts trade are gone. The Sox came into this offseason with immense financial flexibility, virtually no long-term contractual obligations, and the 11th-best farm in the game. For the first time in several years, they have the ability to make serious trades and spend big. After many questionable decisions spawned a frustrating last-place finish, this winter was the brass’ opportunity to renew their commitment to contending and to their fans.

Instead, they’re in a disaster of their own creation once again. They deserve every ounce of vitriol and loss of revenue headed their way. Attendance at Fenway Park this year was the worst it’s been since 2001 (excluding the limited-capacity 2021), before the current ownership took over. Fans have little desire or motivation to give their hard-earned money to these billionaires now. They’re raising ticket prices, by the way, so you’ll be able to spend more money to not watch Bogaerts.

Where do the Sox go from here? The road ahead is bleak and uninviting. There isn’t anyone who can instantly replace Bogaerts. Story can play short (if his elbow holds up), but he can’t be Bogaerts. The loss of a captain in the clubhouse, a role cultivated over a decade of playing here through the highest highs and lowest lows, has no quick fix. Bogaerts’ contributions to this team cannot be tabulated by the analytics department, and he’s rendered irreplaceable by the Rays-esque revolving door of short-term contracts in the Chaim Bloom era.

Which brings us to Devers.

It seemed imperative that the Sox lock in Bogaerts first, because if they didn’t, and another team paid him a gargantuan sum, it would show Devers that in a year, he could test free agency and get even more. And now that Bogaerts has received a contract beyond the wildest expectation, failing to bring him home will cost the Sox Devers in one of two ways. Either, he sees how much his best buddy just got from the Padres and seriously ups his ask in negotiations with the Sox, or Devers decides that he’d rather cease talks entirely, wait out the year, and see who’s ready to dive into the free-agent pool and fish him out next winter. Manny Machado can opt out of his Padres contract next fall, just FYI.

Xander Bogaerts’ enormous Padres contract drives up Rafael Devers’ asking price significantly

Last spring, the Yankees offered Judge seven years and $213.5M. This week, he agreed to return for nine years and $360M. Imagine what Devers – several years younger and a World Series champion – could get on the open market if he has a monstrous season in 2023. His camp was pushing for a contract in the $300M vicinity before Bogaerts got $280M. Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, a fellow member of the $300M club and the pitcher Devers has homered off the most, agreed that he thinks his rival deserves to join him in that elite group, which now boasts nine players after the Philadelphia Phillies signed Turner this week. With everything that’s happened since, the cherubic third baseman would be foolish not to jack up his price.

Devers is truly their last chance; if they let him go now, it will be the point of no return. Jon Lester, Betts, and now Bogaerts, are all gone because this ownership cares more for unproven free agents than the players who’ve won them the trophies they use as shields from the criticism that maybe they’d have even more trophies if they kept the guys who knew how to get them. The difference is that this time, there will be no one left of the old guard. When they traded Lester, they still had David Ortiz. When they traded Betts, they still had Bogaerts and Devers. Now Bogaert is gone, and Devers may not want to stay. If he leaves, the chain of star players that’s been the link between each championship run, will be gone. Ortiz warned them. Pedro Martinez warned them. Everyone warned them.

"“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.”Pedro Martinez"

Hours before fans found out their captain was gone, the Sox shelled out over $100M for Nippon star Masataka Yoshida, who seems great, but unfortunately, through no fault of his own, is the ultimate example of this unacceptable Sox pattern. He’s the most unproven of any free agent they’ve ever spent big on while disrespecting their homegrown guys because he’s never played a single game in the Majors. And yet, on the same day his NPB team posted him, despite having a 45-day window to come to terms, the Sox gave him the highest contract ever for a Japanese position player.

Last spring, they offered Xander Bogaerts a year and $30M.