This upcoming MLB offseason, for the second year in a row, the shortstop market should be the most intriguing part of free agency. As always, free agent shortstops come at a premium as there are few elite ones and they serve as anchors for their team. This offseason Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, and potentially Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts are all up for new contracts. In a four-part series, we will take a deep dive into their potential markets and how much they’re worth. Today we look at the potential Xander Bogaerts contract.
Prior to the 2022 MLB season, we saw Corey Seager sign a 10-year, $325M deal with the Texas Rangers, Trevor Story sign a six-year, $140M deal with the Red Sox, and Javier Baez sign the same deal with the Tigers.
You can find analysis on the other free agent shortstops here!
Bogaerts through 2022
Xander Bogaerts has been a staple at the top of the Boston Red Sox lineup for almost a decade since debuting in 2013 and breaking out in 2015. He’s now 29 years old and in the 3rd year of his 6-year, $120M deal, but he has the ability to opt-out and become a free agent this offseason. Since 2015, Bogaerts has been among the league’s elite shortstops. In those 1068 games, he’s put up a .297/.363/.470 (122 wRC+) slash line with 138 home runs, 25.1 BsR, and 32.2 fWAR. In that time span, only Francisco Lindor has put up a higher fWAR at the shortstop position.
Although he still has a 128 wRC+ and 4.2 fWAR, this season has been the most concerning year of Bogaerts’ career. His .441 SLG, 128 wRC+, .315 xwOBA, 9.8% BB%, and 19.8% K% are all his worst marks since 2017. He’s still just 29 years old, but his lack of power in 2022 is definitely a cause for concern. From 2018 to 2021, Bogaerts had an isolated power (ISO) of .224. This year, that value is just .141. He’s still hitting for the same .299 average and .370 OBP, but his slugging percentage has fallen by just over 80 points. Advanced batted ball metrics such as xwOBA, hard hit%, and barrel% all suggest that Bogaerts has had a considerable amount of luck this year.
Although he’s having a relative down year offensively, Bogaerts has stepped it up considerably with his glove. He’s always been able to limit his errors, but he’s putting up solid advanced numbers for the first time. From 2016 (when OAA started being tracked) to 2021, Bogaerts ranked second-to-last among MLB shortstops with -37 OAA. This season, however, Bogaerts has posted a career-high in DRS (1), OAA (2), and UZR (5.2). It may be too early to tell whether Bogaerts can still play shortstop long-term, but this season has been a great step in the right direction.
The Opt-Out Clause
Xander Bogaerts re-upped with the Boston Red Sox on a six-year, $120 million contract with a built-in opt-out clause in 2019. Prior to the 2022 season, the Red Sox reportedly offered their star shortstop an additional year on his contract. The two sides could not come to an agreement on a long-term extension, and now the industry expectation is that Bogaerts opts out of his deal and voids the three years and $60 million left on his contract.
According to FanGraphs’ value metric, Bogaerts has been worth $81.7 million over the past three years, including the shortened 2020 season. Since 2018, Bogaerts has put up at least four WAR in each full season. Whether or not you believe in $/WAR, there’s really no way to deny that Bogaerts has massively overperformed his contract in the first few years. Bogaerts should (and will) opt out of his contract and become a free agent this coming offseason.
Market Comparisons for a Xander Bogaerts Contract
Out of the four major potential free agent shortstops hitting the open market this season, Bogaerts has perhaps the most consistent track record. Among the four elite free agent shortstops (Bogaerts, Swanson, Correa, Turner), he ranks second in wRC+, first in OBP, third in BsR, and third in fWAR.
Last offseason, we saw many huge deals given out to big-name middle infielders. The aforementioned Baez, Seager, and Story deals set the market for shortstops while Carlos Correa signed a short-term deal with the option to hit free agency once again in 2022. A high-end comparison for Bogaerts is Corey Seager, who signed a ten-year, $325 million deal with the Texas Rangers last offseason.
Production-wise, Seager and Bogaerts couldn’t be more similar. In their final three years before free agency, Bogaerts has slashed .297/.369/.475 (129 wRC+) while Seager slashed .290/.360/.516 (131 wRC+). Although he has put up similar numbers, the underlying data strongly favors Seager. Bogaerts has a career-low .315 xwOBA, while Seager had a .392 xwOBA in his contract year in 2021.
Overall, when looking at a combination of offense, defense, and baserunning, Seager is undoubtedly the better player. The problem for Seager entering free agency was the injury concern. Unlike Seager, Bogaerts hasn’t missed significant time in his entire career. Bogaerts is two years older than Seager was when he signed his deal, so teams may be more cautious with a long-term deal. Also, Bogaerts may not stick at shortstop for the next decade. Some teams may want to move him to 2nd or 3rd base as early as next season.
Story and Bogaerts have very different profiles, but the six-year, $140 million deal that Story signed may end up being very similar to what Bogaerts sees this offseason. In the three years before hitting free agency, Story had put up a .277/.348/.516 (119 wRC+) slash line with 16.3 BsR, 12 OAA, and 11.3 fWAR. As mentioned earlier, from 2020 to 2022, Bogaerts has put up a .297/.369/.475 (129 wRC+) slash line with 7.7 BsR, -9 OAA, and 10.2 fWAR.
Bogaerts has the much better bat, but Story’s glove more than makes up for the difference. While Story has coming off of a down year, he was only two years removed from putting up a 6 WAR season. Bogaerts is a year older than Story was when he signed the deal, but he has put up more consistent numbers. Bogaerts’ bat might be more attractive on the free agent market, but his deal will probably end up being close to Story’s six years for $140 million.
Other than Atlanta, some other players in the Xander Bogaerts Dansby Swanson sweepstakes may be the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, among others. The Phillies would make a lot of sense for Bogaerts as they’ve shown the willingness to shell out huge contracts and Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski was the one who signed Bogaerts to his last deal. If Dansby Swanson leaves Atlanta, they could also be in the market for Bogaerts this offseason. Trea Turner is also a free agent, which opens up a spot in Los Angeles. The Angels are still in need of a shortstop, and there are a couple of young teams like the Baltimore Orioles.
What Will the Xander Bogaerts Contract Look Like?
According to FanGraphs, Bogaerts has been worth $260.2 million over eight years since breaking out in 2015. Since signing his six-year, $120 million extension in 2019, he has been worth $84 million while being paid much less. ZiPS projects Bogaert to put up 12.9 WAR over the next three years. If Bogaerts can continue to put up 4-5 WAR seasons for the next five years, he’ll be worth a deal similar to Story’s $140 million or Marcus Semien‘s 7-year, $175 million deal. Semien might actually be the best comparison since he signed his deal to play 2nd base. The question for Bogaerts will be whether teams view him as a shortstop or a 2nd baseman but I’d project his deal to be just around $180 million over six years.
What are your thoughts on a potential Xander Bogaerts contract and the 2023 MLB free agent shortstop class? Let us know in the comments below!
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