Xander Bogaerts won't be giving the Red Sox a hometown discount this winter

Tomase: The numbers suggest that Bogaerts is getting PAID this winter originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox live by the numbers, and in the case of Xander Bogaerts, they may die by them, too.

Anyone paying attention knows that Bogaerts hasn't had a great year by his standards. He might only hit 15 homers, he's batting just .182 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and his disappearing act for about a month between July and August coincided with the Red Sox falling hopelessly out of contention.

It's not going to matter come free agency this fall, though, because Bogaerts is putting up numbers. And those numbers mean he's going to get paid. Like really, really paid.

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Whereas a month ago a plausible case could've been made that Bogaerts' market might be closer to the four years and $90 million the team offered him in spring training than anyone anticipated, now it's more likely that someone pays him $200 million when he inevitably opts out of the final three years of his contract.

Bogaerts has gotten hot at exactly the right time, and outside of a power drop, the numbers work in his favor. He leads the American League in hitting (.318), and all shortstops in OPS (.861) and WAR (5.7). That last number ranks fifth in the American League and guarantees he'll see down-ballot MVP support that will probably result in his second top-10 finish.

Add the best defensive metrics of his career -- he leads AL shortstops in fielding percentage and total zone runs, and he's top five in outs above average after ranking dead last a year ago -- and we're talking about a complete player at a premium position. And lest we forget, he's also a two-time champion with an impeccable record of clubhouse leadership. 

Those players get paid, and Bogaerts has earned it, anyway, playing for well below market value since signing a six-year, $120 million extension in 2019. The question is if the Red Sox will pay him, because if they intended to argue that diminished defense and advancing age worked in their favor, the last month has popped both of those assumptions. The decision of whether or not to keep Bogaerts will likely have to be made at the ownership level.

He turns 30 on Oct. 1, which makes him a year younger than Marcus Semien was when the latter signed a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Rangers last winter to play second base. Semien represents the floor of any Bogaerts deal, because there's no comparison between the totality of their respective careers.

Even if Bogaerts is too old to score the $325 million the Rangers gave Corey Seager, there's no reason to think an eight-year, $200 million offer won't materialize somewhere. Maybe it will be Philadelphia, where old friend Dave Dombrowski runs the baseball operations and isn't afraid to spend on winning players. The Phillies currently hold the second NL wild card despite abysmal production at shortstop. Bogaerts would slide seamlessly into a lineup that includes Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hopkins, and NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber. It makes all the sense in the world.

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Or maybe it will be in Chicago, where the Cubs kicked off their last rebuild by signing Red Sox ace Jon Lester, who helped anchor the rotation that won it all in 2016. Chicago's baseball boss, Jed Hoyer, was still in Boston when the Red Sox signed Bogaerts out of Aruba in 2009. The same goes for Chicago's VP of player development, Jared Banner. Perhaps those personal connections will make a difference, although Bogaerts would want assurances that Chicago is committed to winning after dismantling its championship core en route to consecutive losing seasons.

In any event, the Red Sox won't be the only club interested in Bogaerts, whose agent, Scott Boras, prefers not to give hometown discounts, especially back to back.

If they want him, they're going to have to pay him. His numbers alone guarantee that.