BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox tips his cap to the crowd after he is removed from the game the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on October 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
If you’re asking me my opinion – and I hope I’m wrong – he’s gone.
But just to be clear, I’m purely trying to read the signs, not to dispense information. Let’s just look at the facts. Trevor Story was signed late in the spring. The Red Sox then low-balled Xander Bogaerts on a contract offer. Then Bogaerts reached free agency and opted out. And now the Red Sox – on yesterday, Nov. 16 – have gone public for the second time with the information that they have improved their offers to both Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the latter of whom is not eligible for free agency until after next season.
If you’re not worried, you should be.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 15: Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy addresses the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
In case you missed it, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy spoke with Boston Globe reporter Michael Silverman from the owners meetings yesterday and delivered the following message:
“Coming out of [last week’s] GM meetings, I can tell you that we have been very proactive, though I know people don’t want to hear about how aggressive we’ve been, because it doesn’t mean anything until there’s something to announce. But I can tell you that we’ve made offers to several players, including our own players. And we’re cautiously optimistic that things are going to start moving here.”
Silverman also wrote, “The club has made at least two offers to Bogaerts since the season ended, once during its period of exclusivity before the shortstop filed for free agency, and a sweetened offer since he became a free agent earlier this month.”
Before we advance any further, there’s a lot to unpack here, starting with the obvious:
No one but The Boston Globe had this story, and we all know that Red Sox owner John Henry also owns the Globe. Silverman’s story contains a New York dateline, which suggests he’s in New York. But we live in a digital age, where people are as accessible as they want to be, which means Kennedy made a choice to speak with the Globe. Rest assured that other reporters and media outlets have reached out to Kennedy and/or other Sox officials with the hopes of getting information. The Red Sox chose this route, which isn’t a criticism as much as it is a statement of fact. It needs to be pointed out.
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox tips his cap to the crowd after he is removed from the game the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on October 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Why is Kennedy telling us this?
More often than not, teams are loathe to give us a blow-by-blow on negotiations, especially if things are nearing a deal. If both the Red Sox and Bogaerts were close to an agreement, there would be no reason for anyone to say anything. They would be working toward a common goal. The Red Sox speaking at all – through Chaim Bloom, Kennedy or anyone else – suggests they are trying to get out ahead of the news, which is bad. They’re letting us know they believe they have made a sincere effort. But Bogaerts is balking – or has balked – and they’re worried about it.
Let’s not forget: at the end of the season, Bogaerts said farewell to the fans at Fenway Park in an orchestrated display, which suggests that all parties in and around the player knew this was headed down the wrong track for a long, long time.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 28: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 28, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
In the end, here’s the point: this is spin. Or damage control. Call it whatever you want. But if the Red Sox were in control of this situation, they wouldn’t be saying anything. They’re not in control. Bogaerts and agent Scott Boras have had the power since the season ended and Bogaerts filed for free agency. The Red Sox now risk losing Bogaerts for nothing, which in some ways makes this worse than the Mookie Betts saga.
Speaking of which, Kennedy made this relatively startling admission with regard to Betts, whom the Red Sox traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2020 season.
Wrote Silverman, quoting Kennedy:
“ `With Mookie, we could have engaged more effectively earlier on in his career,’ said Kennedy, though he added that it was `unknowable’ as to whether earlier engagement would have avoided the fate of trading Betts to the Dodgers, who signed him to a 12-year, $365 million contract. `From where I sit, it is certainly difficult when you move on from homegrown players.’ ”
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – NOVEMBER 03: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts after the end of the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 03, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Now, what does this mean going forward? Good question. The World Series ended just a few weeks ago and the Red Sox already feel backed into a corner. Some of the best free-agent relievers on the market – Edwin Diaz of the Mets, Rafael Montero of the Astros and Robert Suarez of the Padres – have all done what Bogaerts has not; they have re-signed with their existing teams. Kennedy was playful and cryptic when asked about some of the remaining, big-name free agents on the market, responding specifically when Silverman asked him about Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Astros pitcher Just Verlander, the latter of whom was recently named American League Cy Young Award winner.
“We have a responsibility to look at any and all opportunities to improve the major league team, including free agents — all free agents,” Kennedy told the Globe. “Don’t want to talk about those two.”
As for Devers, his fate is still very much in doubt. Like Betts was in 2020, he is one year short of free agency. At this time next year, the Red Sox could be faced with the prospect of losing him for nothing, something they are not likely to allow. (This is especially true if they lose Bogaerts.) An inability to sign Devers – or an unwillingness to commit to a long-term contract – could mean that the Sox have to trade Devers now, perhaps for front-end prospects that could be used in subsequent deals to bolster the Boston pitching staff.
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 5: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox and Xander Bogaerts, left, in the dugout during the fourth inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on October 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
Does that all mean the Red Sox could be headed toward some type of roster cataclysm of sorts? You bet. And it is likely to happen soon. Tomorrow, Nov. 18, is the deadline for teams to tender contract to arbitration-eligible players, meaning a whole new wave of free agents will hit the market. (Some, like left-handed Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, have already been designated for assignment and linked to the Sox and Bloom, who formerly worked in Tampa.) Once that happens, the dominos should begin to fall and the reconstruction of the Red Sox will begin.
With or without Xander Bogaerts and, perhaps, Devers.