The largest tremor late Wednesday night obviously was felt in Queens, where the Mets, under new ownership, locked up their recently acquired All-Star shortstop for the foreseeable future. But the aftershocks could reverberate across the league, with the Boston Red Sox potentially among those most affected in the long run.
First, Lindor’s new deal means he no longer will become a free agent after the 2021 season. This probably doesn’t directly impact the Red Sox’s planning too much, unless they envisioned a corresponding move — either a trade or position change — involving their current shortstop, Xander Bogaerts. Nevertheless, it’s notable because one less impact player will be available next offseason, a development that consequently could lead to a more robust market for players the Red Sox are targeting.
Now, about Bogaerts. The six-year, $120 contract extension he signed with Boston in April 2019 looks like an even greater bargain with Lindor slated to earn $32 million a year from 2022 through 2031. And that perception might be further solidified over the next several months as shortstops Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez — all free agents after 2021 — negotiate their next contracts.
Therein lies the rub for Boston. While Bogaerts right now is under contract through the 2025 season, with a vesting option for 2026, the three-time Silver Slugger can opt out after the 2022 campaign, at which point he’ll be 30 years old and positioned to cash in. The 2022-23 free agency class projects to be much lighter on shortstops, with Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson the top options alongside Bogaerts, and the market will be reset by then. Bogaerts’ $20 million annual salary could look even lighter.
Of course, this isn’t an overnight development. Lindor’s contract, while involving an exorbitant amount of money for most humans, was a long time coming. Bogaerts’ agent, Scott Boras, likely anticipated a windfall for several elite shortstops, thus leading to the inclusion of an opt-out in the contract his client signed two years ago Thursday. The Red Sox, whose front office was led by Dave Dombrowski at the time, probably expected such market trends, as well.
So, in that sense, nothing really changed Wednesday night. But Lindor reportedly agreeing to terms with the Mets on a $341 million pact — roughly eight months after former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers and about six weeks after 22-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. inked a 14-year, $340 million deal with the San Diego Padres — certainly magnifies the decision Boston soon will face with Bogaerts, the current face of the franchise.
“I’m very happy that he’s my shortstop,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Thursday, shortly after Boston’s 2021 season opener was postponed to Friday due to inclement weather. ” … I like my shortstop. I love my shortstop. I’m proud of my shortstop. And I’m glad I’m going to put him in the fourth spot (in the lineup) and he’s going to play short for us hopefully for a long, long time.
“He made a decision two years ago to get (the contract extension) done. I think the decision was the right one for both of those. Like I told him in Seattle that day, ‘You’ve got a chance to be the greatest shortstop in the history of the Boston Red Sox.’ The way he goes about his business, he will be. We’re very proud of him. Very happy. You look around and obviously, there are some great ones, right, and there’s going to be some free agents. But we have our shortstop and we love our shortstop.”
Lindor would have hit free agency at age 28, whereas Bogaerts can test the open market at age 30 if he opts out of his Red Sox contract after the 2022 season. That two-year discrepancy, coupled with Lindor’s superior defensive skills, makes it difficult to project what a new contract for Bogaerts might look like in light of the Mets’ latest investment.
So, for now, we’ll refrain from crunching the numbers, especially since we’re still two years away from Bogaerts having to make a decision. A lot can change in two years, as we’ve seen. And perhaps the sides even will discuss sooner rather than later extending what has been a fruitful union to this point.
But, as Chaim Bloom looks to build a strong, long-term foundation as Boston’s chief baseball officer, you can bet any and all seismic activity across MLB will register on his Richter scale, either because it impacts the Red Sox’s planning directly or could have indirect implications down the road.