Price to keep Xander Bogaerts keeps going up, and so does cost of him leaving

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Tomase: Price to keep Bogaerts keeps going up, and so does cost of him leaving originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Uh, pay the man?

Xander Bogaerts was born to play in Boston and the first three weeks of the 2022 season are proving it. Whereas some stars wilt under the Fenway spotlight, and others lose their way in the midst of contract disputes, Bogaerts is once again proving impervious to any and all outside noise.

In Wednesday's desperately needed 7-1 win over the Blue Jays, Bogaerts continued his assault on American League pitching with four more hits. He already has seven three-hit games, and the season isn't even 20 games old. He's batting a league-leading .397.

Taken in a vacuum, Bogaerts would be off to a tremendous start. But knowing the context of his situation -- the whispers that his days at shortstop are numbered, the arrival of presumed replacement Trevor Story, the lowball contract offer that conjures memories of Jon Lester -- it's borderline absurd that Bogaerts can maintain such a focus on the field.

"Somebody asked the question about contracts and all that stuff. This guy's a pro," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Toronto. "They know what it's all about and this is a guy that his track record speaks for itself. You look up today and there was something about offensive WAR since 2018 and it's (Mike) Trout and him. So we know the track record, we know the player, and he's doing an amazing job taking what they give him."

Tomase: Bloom needs to step up and fix mess he's made of Red Sox roster

Indeed, Bogaerts is employing the old Wee Willie Keeler adage of "hit 'em where they ain't." On Wednesday, he sprayed four singles all over the park -- one up the middle, one pulled off the third baseman's glove, and two plunked to right field. In a season with major questions about the new baseballs sapping power, Bogaerts is content to use the entire field. He only has one homer, but he's on pace for 50-plus doubles.

"I was joking with him, they're going to keep shifting you, go for the batting title," Cora said. "He's like, no I'm going to hit homers, too. He's just such a good player, such an offensive threat, he can pull it for power, he can go the other way for singles and I'm glad he's playing for us."

Unfortunately, the playing for us part is the issue. Because the Red Sox reportedly only offered him what amounts to a one-year, $30 million extension, he's almost certainly going to hit the market this fall, where the going rate for All-Star shortstops is 10 times that. Even if Bogaerts is paid more like a top-of-the-line second baseman, he could still command $100 million more than the Red Sox seem inclined to offer.

Xander Bogaerts was born to play in Boston and the first three weeks of the 2022 season are proving it. Whereas some stars wilt under the Fenway spotlight, and others lose their way in the midst of contract disputes, Bogaerts is once again proving impervious to any and all outside noise.

John Tomase on Bogaerts' hot start to 2022

What's clear is we shouldn't be surprised. After Bogaerts signed a team-friendly six-year, $120 million extension in April of 2019, he responded with his best season as a pro, hitting .309 with a career-high 33 homers and 117 RBIs en route to a fifth-place finish in the MVP voting. The Red Sox may have fallen well short of defending their World Series title, but Bogaerts soared to new heights. Where others choose to luxuriate in their newfound riches, Bogaerts made sure the Red Sox didn't regret a single penny of his deal.

Now he finds himself at the other end of a contract conundrum, and it's not playing out as he would've hoped. The team's first offer was so unserious as to practically beg him to leave in free agency. Maybe it's because chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and/or ownership doesn't want to pay him as he enters his 30s. Maybe it's because they question his long-term viability at shortstop. Maybe they don't want anyone blocking super-prospect Marcelo Mayer, especially with Story already under contract for six years.

Whatever their issue, all Bogaerts can do is make it as hard as possible for them to walk away. And with each hit that he laces to left, right, and center, he turns the screw just that much tighter.