The Chicago Cubs are highly likely to be active in the top tier of the shortstop free agent market this offseason by virtue of their need for a whole lot more offense, and their ability to accommodate a “shortstop” in the mix. It’s not about displacing Nico Hoerner at the position – he proved himself more than capable there this year – and is instead about upgrading the offense AND middle infield defense if such an addition moved Hoerner to second base, where he’s already shown Gold Glove ability. Plus, with shift limits kicking in, it’ll be all the more valuable to have TWO quality defenders up the middle.
One of those top tier shortstops is Xander Bogaerts, who has been connected to the Cubs already this year. The thing about Bogaerts, like Carlos Correa, is that he isn’t technically a free agent until he opts out of his current contract with the Boston Red Sox. He has the right to do that after the playoffs, leaving three years and $60 million on the table in favor of some better deal he could almost certainly find. Much better.
Knowing that he’s certainly going to opt out, the Red Sox are apparently already hard at work trying to ensure they get Bogaerts locked back up BEFORE the opt out date even arrives.
First, ownership has met with Bogaerts privately to underscore just how important he is to the organization:
Second, Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom acknowledged that the work on their side is going to start right away, with Bogaerts their top priority in large part because the timing of his opt out demands it:
Bogaerts, 30, has been with the Red Sox for his entire career, and has been part of the big league team for a decade. He just posted the best season of his career by WAR (6.1), and hit .307/.377.456/134 wRC+ in the process. There are a couple mild caveats there: (1) Bogaerts’ .362 BABIP is some 30 points higher than his career mark, and probably has a lot of not-repeatable good fortune in it, and (2) the defensive metrics lovvvved Bogaerts this year after previously being lukewarm (one-year defensive metrics are notoriously noisy).
Still, Bogaerts has a long track record of being a well-above-average hitter, and a very capable defender. He’s going to get paid, and he’s likely going to improve whatever team signs him.
If he even reaches free agency, that is.
Of course, even if the Cubs did not want to sign Xander Bogaerts, specifically, they’d still REALLY want to see him make it to the market. The Red Sox, having already signed Trevor Story to a huge deal last year, might not be in the market for any of the other shortstops even if Bogaerts walks. They can just move Story to shortstop.
So if the Red Sox extend Bogaerts, that means they take a shortstop off the market, without also eliminating a possible home for the bulk of the group. You’d much rather Bogaerts full-on hit the market, which provides more opportunities for the Cubs – and could take a competitor for Carlos Correa, for example, off the market if they instead signed Bogaerts.
That is to say, whatever your feelings on Bogaerts, specifically, your rooting interest should very much be that he does NOT extend with the Red Sox before opting out.