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Xander 3 Weeks From Free Agency
Xander Bogaerts had 72 ground ball hits this season, trailing only Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Trea Turner.
Bogaerts had incredible fortune on ground balls, he batted .346 with an expected batting average of only .239. The only players that have topped that fortune have been Andres Gimenez, who did so this season while being in the 94th percentile of sprint speed, and extreme speedsters in 2017 and 2018, before widespread shifting, such as Delino DeShields, Harrison Bader, Adam Engel, and Jose Altuve.
Over the previous 5 seasons, Bogaerts had an average of .274 on grounders, which comes out to around 15 extra hits on the ground this season. With Bogaerts hitting .307 this year, those extra hits on the ground raised his batting average by 27 points.
Yes, that’s a crude assessment, but Baseball Savant, which looks at all batted balls, had Bogaerts with an overall .259 expected batting average this season, which he beat by 48 points. So while Bogaerts’ slugging was M.I.A. this season, he was feasting on the other end with bleeders and balls finding holes. Make contact, good things can happen!
How this projects going forward, who knows, but when Scott Boras is handing out his Bogaerts Binders, I’m sure he’s happy he can highlight that .307 BA.
A lot has been made about Bogaerts’ improved defensive play this year. It was a big pendulum swing in the positive direction, backed up by both Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average.
Defensive Runs Saved per 1,200 innings:
2018: -8, 2019: -8, 2020: -11, 2021: -5, 2022: +4
Outs Above Average rated Bogaerts -9 in 2021, and this year he was up to +5.
The Red Sox were exceptional at positioning fielders this year, and you have to wonder how much of that factors into this year’s improvement. Here’s how OAA graded out Bogaerts by where he was positioned:
With that visual, it’s no surprise that he was +8 OAA defending left-handed hitters and -3 OAA defending right-handed hitters.
Bogaerts did a lot of work last offseason in an effort to improve his range, so it can’t be discounted that this improvement is real, which would be incredible. However, with the new shift rules, and the likely inability to hide him in a position that range isn’t of great importance, it has to be a nerve-wracking factor in decision-making.
Bogaerts is a great player!
A year ago this week, I created this blog and wrote that I would, “offer Bogaerts a 6-year, $180M contract extension, $30M AAV, covering his age 30-35 seasons.”
Last week, I ran a survey and the average of 2,000+ respondents said to offer Bogaerts a 6-year, $161M contract.
Some people get all bent out of shape about me not wanting to offer Bogaerts a blank check, but I think I’m pretty fair, and the things I point out — such as how I opened this blog post — are more interesting to me than being a cheerleader saying, “XANDER NO MATTER WHAT!”
RAFFY NO MATTER WHAT!
Where I currently stand on a Bogaerts contract: I’d be fine/happy if a deal gets done around 5/$150M, 6/$160M. Is Bogaerts going to sign something like that now that he’s a whisker away from free agency? I’d be stunned. If the Cubs, or Phillies, or whoever get a chance to make an offer, I’m guessing he’d be looking at possibly 7 or 8 year deals, probably at $200M+. Will I be upset if the Red Sox let him walk in that scenario? Absolutely not. If the Red Sox cave to match that type of offer will I say it’s an incredibly scary contract? Yes.
The Red Sox got three extra years of Bogaerts on a very sweet contract, do they now owe it to him to return the favor in some way? No. Does he owe it to the Red Sox to take a Red Sox For Life hometown discount? Also, no.
My guess at how this plays out is the Red Sox will have their offer, Boras will have his offer. The Red Sox will move towards Bogaerts a couple of steps, will Bogaerts decide to move ten towards the Red Sox?
As I said on Twitter when it happened, I thought the answers about Bogaerts during the end of year press conference were more tepid than the way they were reported.
Would you say Bogaerts is your #1 priority?
“Yeah, just because of the timing of his free agency. Until after the World Series there are a lot of other things we can plan for but not do. This is something we can work on right away.”
Do you hope to get a deal done before he can opt-out?
“Look, that's no different from where we've been, our position hasn't changed on that. I know nothing I say really matters unless there's a deal. Our position has been the same, we want to keep him here for a long time on a deal we're going to look back on and say this was great for everybody.”