We usually post Red Sox columns on Monday, but a cataclysmic occasion like this demands, at the very least, a quick digestion column.

The Padres are absolutely, 100% not f***ing around. They have nearly $1 billion invested in infielders at the moment, and they have now committed $280 million over the next 11 years to their second shortstop, Xander Bogaerts. After being upset by the Phillies in the NLCS, the Padres are not in win now mode, they are in God mode. They can smell the organization’s first championship like Wolverine hunting Sabretooth, and they will not let anything stop them. And I can respect that kind of determination from an organization like theirs.

The Padres have not reached a World Series since 1998, and they have worked at building a winner for several years now, acquiring a solid rotation, hard-throwing bullpen, and a downright scary lineup that just got scarier. They reached the 2022 NLCS without Fernando Tatis Jr. or Xander Bogaerts. If they are not the favorites to win it all in 2023 when the season begins, I’ll wear a Yankee cap for a week.

The Red Sox, however, are on a different path. No, not the path to the toilet — as I’m sure most of the Red Sox fans reading this are thinking — but to something bigger and better than the Padres and Phillies are reaching for. In fact, the Red Sox’ goal is the same as the Yankees’ goal. Build a home-grown foundation that can compete for a long time with the financial flexibility to add high-priced stars to fill the gaps that cannot be filled from within.

Bogaerts was thought to be not only a guy who fit that mold, but a guy who could be the leader of a team that fit that mold. He’s home-grown, a great teammate, and a very good hitter with above average defense that was unjustifiably crapped on for too long by stat-crunching nerds that would rather format a spreadsheet than watch nine innings of a ballgame. The prevailing thought was that as long as the Red Sox paid him a fair market offer, Bogaerts would stay in Boston.

When 2022 concluded, he opted out three years into his six-year contract. Nearing age 30, he apparently took Chaim Bloom’s pre-2022 offer of three years at $90 million as an insult, solidifying his decision to hit the market this offseason. It was essentially only a one-year extension of the existing contract he already had, so you can’t really blame him for being peeved by that offer.

The issue I have is this: what would it have really taken for him to sign before 2022? Bogaerts was kind enough to take what was pretty much a three-year hometown discount in 2019, but sooner or later a Boras client is going to want to get paid.  And boy, did he ever. Scott Boras did what Scott Boras does, with a little assist from Dave Dombrowski.

After 27-year-old Corey Seager got a 10-year, $325 million contract from the Rangers last offseason, the term “fair market” changed considerably for shortstops. I believe Bogaerts is a better player than Seager, and I’m guessing that Bogaerts and Boras feel the same. The Rangers made a foolish offer to a good, but not great player that had never truly had a standout season. In light of that, was Bogaerts ever going to accept an offer that a reasonable person would consider “fair”?

I’m no actuarial genius, but I had pegged Bogaerts’ value at around 6 years for $150 million. Knowing the swings of free agency, I would not have been surprised if he got 8 years for $200 million. Bloom apparently was thinking along the same lines as me, with his offer coming in at around six years for $160 million. To me, $26.6 million for six years sounds fair for Bogaerts, and I’m on record saying that if he asked for a penny more than that, to move on from him. His power dropped a bit last year, and who’s to say if his wrist injury could be a long-term hampering issue. Of course, the title of the Bogaerts column I just linked to was He’s Staying, so what do I know? 

That’s not to say I didn’t want Bogaerts. I don’t think average players are worth $25 million a year. But I don’t think he’s worth the kind of superstar commitment that you give to guys like Aaron Judge or Trea Turner. The Rangers making a poor decision last offseason for Seager, who was one of only two premium shortstops on the market that year (Correa), doesn’t change that.

And then Dave Dombrowski weighed in.

Holy smokes! Even with a flooded market with four premium shortstops available, Dombrowski did what he had to do to make absolutely sure he got the guy he wanted. Giving Trea Turner $300 million for 11 years blew away the market setting that most of the baseball world thought we would see. Suddenly, Bogaerts, Correa, and Swanson got astronomically more expensive, and Scott Boras leveraged the angst of a jaded general manager to get Bogey his bag.

A.J. Preller of the Padres wanted Trea Turner, but was outbid by the yee-hawin’, gunslingin’ Dombrowski. Then he pivoted to Aaron Judge, who went back to New York. Hell bent on making up for the emptyheaded buffoonery of Tatis, the guy who was supposed to be his franchise cornerstone shortstop, Preller was not going to leave the Winter Meetings without a big name shortstop to step in for Tatis, who will likely be moved to the outfield when he finally returns. Preller would not be beaten again and, to his credit, he also got his guy.

That the Phillies and the Padres will undoubtedly regret these deals in time is a certainty. If it helps yield each team a championship along the way, it will certainly prove to be worth it for Dombrowski and Preller, and likely for the fans as well. The Phillies haven’t won a ring since 2008, and the Padres haven’t won one since ever. The fans being angry about a dead-ass franchise in 2029 will mean very little to Preller if he has a ring on his finger by then, and Dombrowski will have fled Philly a full presidential term before then. 

What I support about Bloom’s philosophy is that he is trying to elevate the Boston Red Sox franchise into something more than a team looking to go all in to win a single championship. He is taking the time and patience that is needed to turn the Red Sox into a team that can compete for championships every year for a decade or more. At a reasonable price, inking Bogaerts for seven or eight years could have potentially fit into that plan.

Even with elite shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer a couple years away, that kind of deal could be tenable.  Mayer could play third for a couple years until Bogaerts is ready to move off shortstop, and Bogaerts could finish out his contract playing second base, third base, or DH.

On the other hand, signing any shortstop for 11 years is completely untenable for anybody that is actually in their right mind. Dombrowski; a simpleminded checkbook wielder, and Preller; a twice-shunned puddle of desperation, don’t fit that criteria. 

But was that seven- or eight-year deal ever even on the table? I tend to think Boras was set to drag Bogaerts into free agency unless the Red Sox were willing to offer the same ten-year length that Seager got. I believe that deal skewed the shortstop economics to a point where a “fair market offer” became synonymous with “what Seager got.”  Seager may be two years younger than Bogaerts, but he’s also not as good as Bogaerts. After already executing a hometown discount after 2019, and with an inferior player commanding 10-years and $325 million on the market after the 2021 season, were Scott Boras and Xander Bogaerts ever truly going to settle for seven or eight years rather than hitting free agency? Markets tend to go up, not down, and nobody knows this better than Scott Boras. 

Whether or not Bogaerts would have settled for seven or eight years is now irrelevant, since Bloom’s offer was apparently only six years for $160 million. I’m positive that this same offer would absolutely not have gotten a deal done even before the 2022 season began. Red Sox fans can complain all they want about not offering a fair market deal to Bogaerts before he hit free agency, but as I’ve explained, “fair market” is an incredibly vague term. Bogaerts and Boras can scream from the heavens for the next eleven years that all they wanted was a “fair offer” from the Red Sox, but unless they someday give a figure that clarifies what that term meant to them at that time, we’ll never really know how “fair” an offer they wanted. 

Bloom is taking the hit for this, as he’s taken the hit for three years, and that’s natural. Until he makes a big splash this offseason, via trade or free agent acquisition, he has to be in the crosshairs. I’m as staunch a defender of his as you will find, but even my confidence will be shaken if he doesn’t tap much further into all that money that came off the books when the contracts of David Price, JD Martinez, Nate Eovaldi, and now Xander Bogaerts expired. I’ve fully supported him up until now because he was the light leading us out of the hamstrung cloud of darkness that Dombrowski dropped on us after winning the 2018 World Series. 

The only light I see now emanates from the flames that burn at the ends of the torches starving Red Sox fans now wield after four long, tumultuous seasons without a championship. They want Chaim’s head for his fiscal responsibility, and yearn for a return to the days when their dearly departed hero approved ill-advised nine-figure deals from the tenth green at the Charles River Country Club. 

But it’s not just the shortsighted yahoos that are demanding action now. I’m glad Bloom didn’t sell his long-term plans down the river for X. But he’s got a bulging bank account right now, and a dwindling free agent pool to spend it on. It’s time to take action so we can all recover from what just happened. 

You know what to do, Chaim. 

By Luke

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