Will the Boston Red Sox answer Xander Bogaerts' plea for a roster upgrade?

BOSTON — Where is this going?

Broad question for the Red Sox, but an important one. We’ll know the answer after the next two weeks play out.

Boston could either sell off assets ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline and wait for 2023 or reinforce the fringes of its lineup and bid for a place in October. Fan costs at Fenway Park — highest in the big leagues for a family of four according to a recent graphic released by The Hustle — demand the latter.

Chris Sale’s fractured left pinkie finger doesn’t mark some sort of end point. The Red Sox were 47-40 before he threw a pitch this season — they were among the American League wild-card qualifiers. His presence arguably would have helped over the next two months, but it wasn’t defining as it concerns reaching the playoffs again.

Boston ranks third in wins above average at third base, with Rafael Devers, right, and seventh at shortstop, with Xander Bogaerts — that's the foundation of its team. Will they be signed to extensions by the Red Sox front office?
Boston ranks third in wins above average at third base, with Rafael Devers, right, and seventh at shortstop, with Xander Bogaerts — that's the foundation of its team. Will they be signed to extensions by the Red Sox front office?

J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, Christian Vazquez, Kiké Hernandez, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill — they're all among players who could be free agents next year. Xander Bogaerts seems likely to opt out of the final three years of his contract and join them on the market. That’s a significant amount of talent set to walk out the door, and it would leave Boston with only $87.4 million committed to its payroll — that’s an ocean of flexibility under the first threshold of the Competitive Balance Tax.

Some Red Sox holes have been obvious since spring training, and they’re practically begging to be fixed. That certain areas of the roster were left deficient almost according to plan isn’t acceptable. Baseball Reference ranks the club 29th among 30 teams in wins above average at first base and in the three outfield positions as a whole — that's nearly half of an everyday lineup.

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Swapping out Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Binelas and David Hamilton in an offseason trade with the Brewers might make some sense down the road. It’s done next to nothing for this current group but weaken the roster. And there’s no guarantee two prospects who haven’t played above Double-A ever make a real impact with the parent club.

Boston seems to frame quite a few of its decisions with a heavier emphasis on the future these days. Have we been subjected to Bobby Dalbec, Franchy Cordero and Travis Shaw at first base because Triston Casas was supposed to be here by now? Harsh reminder — player development isn’t linear. Lack of performance, injuries (a nagging ankle problem for Casas), position changes, off-field concerns, trades, 40-man roster decisions — they all play a factor in whether or not a prospect eventually pans out.

With that in mind, we’re seriously discussing a future that might not include Bogaerts and Rafael Devers? Boston ranks third at third base and seventh at shortstop in wins above average — that's the foundation of its team. The Red Sox should be making every attempt to keep their stars and strengthen elsewhere — declining to meaningfully engage Bogaerts and making a below-market contract extension offer to Devers are both disappointing decisions at best.

You’ll hear some hand-wringing about Bogaerts potentially blocking Marcelo Mayer from reaching the big leagues in a few years. Boston obviously doesn't share your concern if its latest draft results are any indication. Three of its top five selections were shortstops — wouldn't Bogaerts, Mayer or someone else stand in their way?

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The answer, of course, is no. A teenager like Mayer, talented as he might be, is light years away from filling the spikes of a de facto team captain and two-time World Series winner. The same could be said for a glut of players who are eligible to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.

Would moving some combination of Ceddanne Rafaela, Niko Kavadas, Christian Koss, Ryan Fitzgerald and Bryan Mata deal a death blow to the system’s depth on the whole? Certainly not. The Red Sox will have decisions to make this offseason and can’t possibly protect everyone from the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mariners have made the most noteworthy rise in the standings since the start of July. Seattle was an early buyer on the trade market — its move for first baseman Carlos Santana coincided with a 17-1 burst into the All-Star Break. Santana has posted a .796 OPS over his first 17 games — not quite Carlos Beltran’s scorching run with the Houston Astros in 2004, but it speaks to a more anecdotal conclusion.

Seattle’s front office acted. It sent a clear message to the clubhouse — we think you’re worth the investment. And the players responded. Bogaerts spoke on set with Fox Sports in Los Angeles earlier this week and asked Boston’s management for similar help.

How will the Red Sox respond to his plea? We’re about to find out.

bkoch@providencejournal.com    

On Twitter: @BillKoch25 

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Red Sox shortsop Xander Bogaerts makes roster plea on Fox Sports