Can Red Sox rebuild quickly enough to keep Xander Bogaerts from opting out?

John Tomase
·3 min read

Tomase: Bogaerts opt-out looms large for rebuilding Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

* Throughout this month, we'll put a member of the 2020 Red Sox and one of their most notable statistics under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead. Today's installment: Xander Bogaerts.

2022

OK, so a year isn't exactly a statistic. But it's the only number that matters as we ponder Bogaerts' future.

For all the attention paid to J.D. Martinez's opt-out clauses over the last two years, Bogaerts has one, too, and it triggers after the 2022 season. Bogaerts turns 30 that October and could be primed for not only a big payday, but an opportunity to leave an ugly rebuild, especially if the Red Sox don't spend this winter.

Tomase: Is Vazquez a building block or trade chip?

From the day he signed his six-year, $120 million extension, Bogaerts was hailed as a bargain who committed long-term to Boston even if it meant leaving some money on the table. If you're the Red Sox, the clock is ticking, however. They need to reciprocate and build a better roster, or Bogaerts could decide to chase a title somewhere else.

What went right for Bogaerts in 2020

Bogaerts was one of just two regulars to hit .300, finishing at exactly that number after going 4 for 7 in his final two games. He also socked 11 homers with 28 RBIs and an .867 OPS, building on the production that had made him the starting shortstop on baseball's inaugural all-MLB team a year earlier.

Bogaerts' contributions aren't limited to the field, however. He's also a clubhouse leader who bridges the gap between English and Spanish speakers while also making himself accountable to the media. He has all the tools to be the face of a franchise.

What went wrong for Bogaerts in 2020

A year after consistently hammering the ball, Bogaerts made generally weaker contact in 2020, falling to middle of the pack in exit velocity and lower third in hard-hit percentage. He also continued to raise questions about his range at shortstop and long-term fit at the position, particularly on balls to his right. He ranked 31st out of 39 qualified shortstops in outs above average, per Baseball Savant, and 35th in runs prevented.

Report: Sox have in-person meeting with Alex Cora

Depending on your perspective, he also started the season on either a defeatist or brutally honest foot when he acknowledged that the team's pitching staff wasn't very good. Big picture, though, it's hard to quibble with his performance.

Early outlook for 2021

With 2022 looming, it's worth asking if Bogaerts is indeed a building block, or someone the Red Sox would consider moving while seeking a defensive upgrade at short. Indians All-Star and Gold Glover Francisco Lindor could be on the move this winter, for instance, and he's a year younger than Bogaerts, with 30-homer pop, too.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already made it clear that he'll listen on anyone, but let's assume that Bogaerts remains in Boston as a solid piece of the future. The Red Sox need to build around someone, and the homegrown All-Star is a great place to start.