There isn’t a better bargain in baseball right now, but as the Red Sox agreed to terms on a 2016 figure of $650,000 for Xander Bogaerts it was a sharp reminder of the contract talks that will eventually be coming down the pipe with the young stud. A source confirmed the agreement Wednesday afternoon, as the team continues to prepare for the season by getting into their exhibition contests from Florida.
With all the talk on David Price’s hefty new contract, the bulge in Pablo Sandoval’s shirt, and Hanley Ramirez gearing up to play another position he has never played an inning at in his life it is becoming increasingly easy to forget there’s plenty of great developments to focus on surrounding the team as well. Bogaerts may be chief among them.
Last year you could easily consider him the biggest All-Star snub, after losing the Final Vote he couldn’t even find a spot in the game as a replacement. If you can remember, Brock Holt was the lone representative of the team in Cincinnati. Meanwhile all the former did was establish himself as one of the best young hitters in baseball all year; hitting .320 (5th in MLB), maintaining a .776 on-base plus slugging percentage (67th), driving in 81 runs, while striking out 37 less times than he had the season before in 60 more at-bats.
That was all fun, but nothing beat the defensive leaps he took from his first full MLB campaign to his second in 2015. When he said after the disaster that was his rookie year as shortstop, during which he was thrown over to third base for Stephen Drew, that he was heading to Arizona to rigorously train defensively with Dustin Pedroia he meant it.
He passed the eye test from the start last year with countless flashy grabs you couldn’t have imagined him completing the season prior; while raising his fielding percentage nine points and he went from costing his team nine runs (fangraphs’ DRS) to being a net zero.
Above anything else, Bogaerts showed the poise and fortitude of a cornerstone player. At age 23 he was able to clean up much of the misfortune of his rookie year while posting the second highest “wins above replacement” rating (4.3) on the team in tandem with fellow young prodigy Mookie Betts (4.8).
That dynamic between the two is something that John Farrell has been stressing heavily as one of Boston’s greatest strengths going into 2016:
“We’re talking about two, young middle of the diamond players that are top of the order hitters…that’s a unique set of talents. And you look back on 2015, our young players are the guys that carried this team to the extent that they did. And we’re going to continue to build upon it.”
For all his improvements Bogaerts was due some fair compensation for his strides and Boston came through with what now amounts to a 28% pay raise from last year. But as I mentioned it is a grim reminder of the business due to ensue in the not-too-distant future with Bogaerts’ representative: the infamous Scott Boras.
Boras plays a waiting game with his clients; a strategy that has netted him a $210-million deal for Max Scherzer after they decided to turn down a $144-million extension in Detroit the season prior. When there’s potential to get more, he the former holds no bars.
That’s the situation at the moment with Bogaerts. His upside is still through the roof and the Red Sox are going to have to sit down at the negotiation table with a man who has given them fits through the years. Just two seasons ago Boras’ aggressive tactics took the team out of the running to re-sign longtime outfield Jacoby Ellsbury just weeks after they had won the championship with him in 2013. Letting him go ended up being a good move, but it was still difficult for many to see him move on from Boston to the Yankees.
Then there was Adrian Beltre, who played a holdover year in Boston to boost his worth on the market. He raked wit the Sox before signing his $80-million deal in 2011 to leave for the Texas Rangers after just one season. Ever since then the team has had great difficulty finding stability at the third base spot.
So could Boston’s pay-raise that wasn’t necessary by any means be an early gift to the infielder in their eventual pursuit to keep him with the team long-term? You can’t rule it out with their ownership group but for now, Bogaerts seems determined and appreciative to build off the raise he has now earned:
“I’m very thankful to be part of this organization…I know they treat their guys top class. I’m very thankful for what they did.”
The heavy lifting contract talks begin next winter when Bogaerts becomes arbitration-eligible, at which point he and the Sox will have to either talk long-term numbers or go year-to-year with Boras. That’s what this pay raise is a grim reminder of. The Sox may have a cornerstone player which is fantastic, but they won’t have a cheap one for much longer. The money games have already begun.