The San Diego Padres might be hoping Xander Bogaerts has had a change of heart.
The Padres are reportedly among the handful of teams interested in the free agent shortstop. But it’s that “shortstop” part of the equation that might be a hold-up at the moment for San Diego.
The Padres have spoken with Scott Boras, Bogaerts’ agent, to gauge how likely Bogaerts might be to change positions, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday, citing major league sources.
“Bogaerts would make particular sense for the Padres if he was willing to play first base or second short-term, then possibly move to third if Manny Machado opts out after next season,” Rosenthal wrote.
Rosenthal on Wednesday added that Boras revealed such a conversation didn’t happen and that “Xander is playing shortstop.”
Bogaerts discussed the idea prior to the 2022 season when there was speculation about the Red Sox signing Carlos Correa. At the time, the All-Star showed no inclination to move off of shortstop.
“I’m a shortstop, man. That’s where I’ve played my whole career,” he told reporters in spring training, per NBC Sports Boston. “Obviously, it’s a position I take a lot of pride in. … Sometimes it’s like I don’t even know if I’m on the team. It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ But what are you going to do?”
Ultimately, Correa signed with Minnesota, and the Red Sox pivoted to Trevor Story. The former Rockies shortstop moved off the position to second base while Bogaerts remained at short. Bogaerts actually had one of the best seasons of his career defensively in 2022. Bogaerts saved a total of five runs, per the Fielding Bible, which ranked 14th among shortstops in 2022. In the six seasons prior, he failed to finish better than 27th among shortstops.
The Padres’ shortstop situation is an interesting one. Fernando Tatis Jr. looked like a future face of baseball at the position for San Diego, but injury issues paired with a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs have complicated things. He’s eligible to return in late April, but the long-term outlook for him might include a move to the outfield. That sequence of events likely would keep someone like Bogaerts at shortstop at least to begin the contract. Doing that, however, might worsen the Padres’ infield defense. Ha-Seong Kim was extremely valuable at the position in 2022, playing 131 games. By the same defensive runs saved metric, he ranked sixth in 2022.
San Diego’s best lineup both offensively and defensively would include Bogaerts in the lineup but playing a different position. The Padres might have to really sweeten the pot, however, to get a change of heart from Bogaerts.