If the Friar Faithful had a magic wand, the San Diego Padres would have already held a news conference to announce a major free agent signing. Instead, an agreement with free agent Xander Bogaert took place while other teams were leaving this week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.
Usually, Padres general manager A.J. Preller makes some noise at the trade deadline that changes the baseball landscape for the remainder of the season. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Preller amazingly reshaped his team’s roster by completing multiple trades amidst the struggles of maintaining a starting lineup due to positive COVID tests. Then last summer, the “rockstar GM” pulled off the biggest trade deadline deal in recent times, acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals for the Friars top minor-league talent. Each resulted in the Padres making the playoffs following the moves.
Last October proved the Padres are a bona fide contender, but still in need of a proven bat at the top of the order. The Friars have declared Bogaerts to be that player for the better part of the next decade.
San Diego Padres: Xander Bogaerts is an elite shortstop
The Padres missed out on Trea Turner and Aaron Judge, but they wanted to make a significant free agent signing this offseason. If the next step is to acquire a shortstop, then go after the player at the top of their list.
You cannot argue with Bogaerts’ success in his 10-year major league career. He played a role in helping the Boston Red Sox win two World Series titles and being selected to four All-Star teams.
Over that time frame, no other player has been better at the top of their team’s batting order. Correa has a career .292 batting average with his highest home run and RBI totals (33 and 117) coming in the 2019 season. Also, he has a career .814 OPS and a 117 OPS+, which confirms he is one of the best top-of-the-order hitters in the majors today.
Bogaerts has been one of the best defensive shortstops since his debut in 2013. If he can put his glove on the ball, Bogaerts will make a play. He is fifth among active shortstops with 2,972 assists and his career fielding percentage is .979, which is 23rd all-time.
Bogaerts opted out of the remaining three years ($60 million) of his deal with the Red Sox. He chose San Diego because the team’s culture fits his personality. Bogaerts has the speed and pop to elevate the Padres lineup to an elite level. Believe it or not, the Friars have the resources to pay him.
Losing out on Turner and Judge was disappointing, but the addition of Bogaerts has brought the Friar Faithful to their feet.
San Diego Padres: A position change in Jake Cronenworth’s future
The signing of Bogaerts could mean Jake Cronenworth is on the move next season. No, not in a trade with another team, but a move to a new position. The Friars are looking to stabilize their first base position. They have good middle infield depth and Cronenworth is versatile enough to move over for first without diminishing the team’s infield defense. He has played the position in the past for the Padres.
Cronenworth did not replicate his All-Star output from 2021, but he is an outstanding run-producer late in games. His approach becomes more discipline at the plate and Cronenworth has shown the ability to make contact with runners in scoring position. Also, his power is potent into Petco Park’s short porch in right field. It is a safe bet that he will return to his typical offensive production in 2023.
San Diego Padres: Who plays shortstop in 2023?
MLB teams will need more athletic infielders as extreme defensive shifts are a thing of the past. No longer can you field a big bat with no glove in the lineup.
Usually, a team’s best athlete will play the shortstop position. The Friars have signed Bogaerts and the pending return of Fernando Tatis Jr. from the suspension list will give them two elite shortstops on the roster. Either player could play second base, but a position move for Tatis Jr. could lower the threat of potential injury that has plagued him throughout his major league career. The signing of Bogaerts allows Padres manager Bob Melvin to move players around the diamond and not hurt that day’s defensive alignment.
The Hot Stove League is a wonderful time of the baseball year. It is where team executives are trying to execute their offseason plans. Once again, Preller has shocked the baseball universe with an out-of-the-box player acquisition.