Mazz: In defense of Xander Bogaerts
So Trevor Story is in and Xander Bogaerts may be out, at least in the longer term, which is fine. We’ve all been here before. Players come and players go. But this notion that Xander Bogaerts must be cast aside because of his defense is preposterous.
Somewhere along the line, in the alphabet soup that has become baseball analytics, we haven’t just lost our way. We’ve started spinning around in circles. And so in the interest of consistency, let’s stick with modern metrics that appeal to the newer, younger generation of baseball fans. Since Alex Cora first became manager of the Red Sox in 2018, Xander Bogaerts ranks second among all major league shortstops in baseball in WAR, the comprehensive metric that many use to cast votes for the Most Valuable Player Award. And now those same nerds (sorry) are telling us that Bogaerts’ defensive metrics are poor.
So I looked it up. Over that same span – 2018-21 – Bogaerts ranks ninth among qualifying AL shortstops in DEF as defined by fangraphs. (Corey Seager, who just signed for $33 million annually with the Texas Rangers, ranks 30th.) In 2021, Bogaerts ranked 11th of 26 shortstops in the same category, which hardly suggests bad defense.
Now, the real question: what have you seen when you’ve watched him play? Does Bogaerts’ defense border on that of Rafael Devers or Bobby Dalbec, both of whom were atrocious last year? No. So if you want to say Bogaerts doesn’t have great range, fine. You’ve found a wart. But he fields just about everything he gets to, which has made him a centerpiece of Red Sox playoff teams in 2018 and 2021.
Seriously. Some of these metrics just get downright stupid sometimes. During arguably the peak years of Derek Jeter’s career – from 2005-09 – Jeter ranked first in the majors in WAR at shortstop. He also ranked 39th among 49 qualifying players in DEF with a number far worse than Bogaerts. People said he was a liability at shortstop, too, citing the same issues that Bogaerts has: that Jeter was too big for the position, too slow, too old.
So if Jeter were here, would you have let him go, too?
If you’re insulted by the Bogaerts-Jeter comparison, get over yourself. That one has been there since Bogaerts started playing professional baseball. He wears No. 2 in honor of Jeter, his idol. He has a similar body type. The problem early in Bogaerts’ career was that he tried to play too much like Jeter, spraying the ball around the field when he had a far greater capacity to drive it. When Cora arrived and convinced Bogaerts of that, the player’s career took off.
Do the Red Sox want to pay Bogaerts what he’s really worth on the open market? Heaven knows. The three highest-paid shortstops in baseball based on average annual salary – Carlos Correia ($35M), Francisco Lindor ($35M) and Seager ($33M) aren’t exactly cheap. Bogaerts is currently making only $20M and can opt out of his contract (which otherwise goes through 2025) after this year. He’s still just 29. If the Red Sox haven’t already, they should offer Bogaerts something in the range of six years and $185-$190M – now – and rip up his existing contract. His current deal could take him through 2025 anyway. Extending that deal would take him only through 2028.
If that looks like a six-year extension, it really isn’t. It’s more like a three-year extension with a raise in the next three years, which might make it more palatable for everyone.
And if Bogaerts rejects the deal? Well, fine. Then he’s clearly disgruntled enough with his Red Sox experience to walk away regardless.
But at least it won’t be because of this silly notion that his defense is somehow a major detriment to a Red Sox team that has far greater concerns.