Xander Bogaerts’ decision to opt out of his contract didn’t sneak up on the Red Sox. Nor does it mean the shortstop’s tenure in Boston is over.
Yet, with the Major League Baseball Players Association announcing Monday that Bogaerts, among others, has chosen to become a free agent, it’s officially time to start contemplating the Red Sox’s options at shortstop for 2023 and beyond.
Let’s start with the obvious.
1. Re-sign Bogaerts
Don’t read too much into Bogaerts leaving three years and $60 million on the table. Sure, it’s a nice chunk of change. But he’s simply worth more on the open market, hence his decision to opt out and test free agency. Now, it’s on the Red Sox to up the ante if they’d like to retain his services. Both sides have expressed interest in continuing their fruitful relationship, which began when Bogaerts signed as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Aruba in 2009. Boston presumably will face external competition, though, and the club’s other roster shortcomings only complicate matters.
Do the Red Sox want to commit well north of nine figures for Bogaerts, a four-time All-Star who’s blossomed into an elite player, a clubhouse leader and a franchise pillar? While it’d be easy to answer in the affirmative, given his continued importance to Boston’s lineup, subtracting emotion from the equation makes for a more compelling debate. After all, Bogaerts just turned 30 and is coming off another season of suppressed power. He’s one of MLB’s best all-around shortstops, to be clear, but there are questions about how his skill set will age and whether he’ll move off the position down the road. Plus, Rafael Devers’ impending free agency next offseason looms large as far as mapping out the Red Sox’s future finances.
2. Replace Bogaerts with high-profile shortstop
So, what happens if the Red Sox don’t re-sign Bogaerts, for whatever reason? Well, the most aggressive play would be to target one of the other three big-name shortstops available in free agency this offseason: Trea Turner, Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson.
Each has his strengths (and weaknesses). And each, like Bogaerts, surely will command a deal well in excess of $100 million — and maybe even $200 million-plus in the cases of Turner and Correa. Finding common ground with Bogaerts feels like the more likely scenario, but perhaps Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom ultimately chooses to shuffle the deck, with Boston identifying some value or characteristic that supersedes the familiarity and stability of the incumbent. The Red Sox, we mustn’t forget, just finished in last place in the American League East. Change, in some form, wouldn’t be the worst thing.
3. Acquire stopgap
There’s a clear dropoff from the top quartet (Bogaerts, Turner, Correa and Swanson) to the other shortstops available in free agency — a list that includes Elvis Andrus, Aledmys Díaz and José Iglesias, among others. But if the Red Sox don’t re-sign Bogaerts, they could shift gears entirely and reallocate the bulk of their financial resources to plug other holes.
Does that mean going after superstar outfielder Aaron Judge? Or revamping the rotation by opening up the checkbook for someone like Jacob deGrom or Carlos Rodón, two pitchers who just became free agents? Who knows. But venturing down either path could open the door for a lower-level replacement at shortstop, rather than a splashy move for Turner, Correa or Swanson.
4. Lean on internal players (i.e.: move Trevor Story to shortstop)
One possible solution would be to move Story back to shortstop — the natural position he played for six seasons with the Colorado Rockies before moving to second base in 2022 — and hope Christian Arroyo can stay healthy as a full-time second baseman. Or the Red Sox could shift Kiké Hernández back to the infield — either at shortstop or second base — and seek reinforcements in the outfield. Or the Red Sox could relocate Story to the other side of the bag and target a new second baseman, a scenario MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Monday pointed to as “Plan B” for Boston (with re-signing Bogaerts being Plan A).
The first two scenarios, in particular, are less than ideal. And any plan that involves removing Hernández from center field probably should be discounted entirely based on his defensive prowess on the grass. But it felt like signing Story last offseason was a way for Boston to safeguard against Bogaerts’ potential departure. His experience at both middle-infield positions provides insurance and flexibility amid the Red Sox’s unpredictable offseason.