We can agree that Xander Bogaerts probably won’t be worth 25 million dollars when he’s forty years old. It’s likely that the Padres’ front office will have passed that problem on to someone else by then, but even if they are still in place, they will be happy to pay that cost if Bogaerts brings them a title before then or if he outplays the contract by enough in the early years to compensate for it.
You can see the logic, whether you think Bogaerts is worth it or not. You can also see the sense in the Boston Red Sox walking away from paying that price. What is less clear is why Boston is paying nearly as much ($21 million vs $25.5 million) in yearly value to Japanese star Masataka Yoshida. Or signing free agent closer Kenley Jansen to a two-year deal worth $32 million.
Boston Red Sox need to do more to replace Xander Bogaerts
In terms of simple WAR, Bogaerts posted a 5.8 WAR in 2002, while Jansen posted an 0.9 WAR. Some of that is simply WAR undervaluing relief pitchers, but the fact is that Jansen, who will be the second highest-paid reliever in MLB next year behind Edwin Diaz, ranked 43rd in WHIP among relievers with more than 50 innings pitched. If you think that’s a fluke, his WHIP has not been below 1.00 since 2018.
Since Jansen will be 36 years old by the end of the 2023 season, he seems unlikely to recapture the form that made him an elite close in the middle of the last decade. He’s been good at piling up saves because he’s durable and he got a lot of opportunities pitching for great teams in Los Angeles and Atlanta, but he has also blown 22 saves in 145 chances since 2019, which isn’t really an elite rate for a closer.
Let’s give the Red Sox the benefit of the doubt and say they just couldn’t see paying Bogaerts big money through his late 30s. As we said, there’s a degree of logic in that sort of decision, regardless of whether it makes Boston better in 2023. But they had to know how the market for players of Bogaerts’ caliber was trending, and if he was inclined to give them a hometown discount he would not have waited until November to let them know.
That being the case, why not trade Bogaerts at the trade deadline? At the end of July, Boston was in last place in the AL East, 3 1/2 games out of the last wild card, with at least three teams to climb over to grab a postseason spot. Even if they had a shot mathematically, nobody was looking at Boston as a team primed to make a big run. Their pitching staff was a wreck, and with Chris Sale shut down for the year, it wasn’t going to get better.
If the Red Sox had made Bogaerts available to the highest bidder at the trade deadline, who knows what kind of a haul they could have gotten. Aside from the Juan Soto deal, there really weren’t any All Star caliber position players switching teams at the deadline last year. With shortstops on contending teams like Fernando Tatis jr. injured and ultimately suspended for PEDs and others like Bryson Stott in Philadelphia and JP Crawford in Seattle struggling, it seems likely that there was a deal to be had.
It would not have been popular to trade a star player when the Red Sox were technically still in contention, but being willing to zig when everyone else is zagging is how a team maximizes its talent. As it turned out, the Boston Red Sox either misread the market for Bogaerts in free agency or they misread their chances of making a playoff run if they kept in. Either way, it means they lost Bogaerts and got nothing in return.