In a Winter Meetings full of drama and movement and excitement, this might be the stunner of the week. A.J. Preller and the Padres are just madmen.
After failing in a surprise monster bid to sign Aaron Judge, which itself came after failing in a monster bid to sign Trea Turner, the Padres pivoted to Xander Bogaerts and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: 11 years and $280 million. It’s barely less than the 11 years and $300 million Trea Turner got from the Padres.
Bogaerts, 30, has a long track record of high-level success at the plate, and he rated out extremely well at shortstop this past season. The thinking longer-term, though, is that he’ll have to move off of shortstop, which can easily enough be accommodated by the Padres, who already have a few long-term shortstops available(!).
I expect some of the thinking here for the Padres, in addition to just adding a big bat and continuing to push the Dodgers, is that Manny Machado has an opt-out after next season, so having Bogaerts in place as insurance is a decent idea. I don’t *think* this means the Padres will consider offers for shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who has had various off-field issues, but who could move to the outfield. (But if the Padres want to take a call or two, I would hope the Cubs reach out. Just to see what’s up.)
I’m trying to find the context for the deal Bogaerts got, but it’s just stunningly large. Consider that the Red Sox offer was just $160 million:
In comparison, the Padres’ offer just seems so outrageously over the top that it almost feels … like a panic move? Like they didn’t get either of the two big-time free agents they really wanted, so they decided they had to go over the top to at least get Bogaerts? Doesn’t mean they’ll be proven wrong in time, but it’s just such a massive, massive contract.
The Globe reports that three or four other teams were willing to go over $200 million, but the Padres were so far up there that it’s the deal Bogaerts had to do. It makes you think he really wanted to go back to the Red Sox, but they simply did not value him nearly as highly as the rest of the market. Given the Cubs’ reported involvement throughout the process, it’s fair to wonder whether they were one of those teams.
Also part of the cost for the Padres: they were over the luxury tax, so signing Bogaerts cost them their second and fifth rounders, and $1 million in IFA bonus pool money.
Like the Turner deal, this one gets Bogaerts a huge guarantee in exchange for a reduced AAV – just about $25.5 million. These deals may seem crazy in their structure because they’re paying a guy deep into his 30s and even early 40s, but I tend to think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Instead, look at it as a team willing to guarantee X amount over a long-term deal, and then spreading it out over as many years as possible because of the luxury tax benefits AND because of the time-value-of-money benefits. This is kind of like doing some big deferrals, you know? And then if and when you have to let the guy go because he’s no longer productive at 39, well, you were going to have to pay him those final two years anyway, but it’s just like you deferred some of the money for a decade.
As for the rest of the shortstop market … and then there were two.
The Red Sox are not going to be in on Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson at this point, I don’t think, so this did take one hungry team off the market without bringing another one on. That’s good. But the reality is that there are still more than two teams left looking at two shortstops. The Cubs could wind up one of the teams left without a dance partner.
The Turner and Bogaerts deals certainly set up a situation where Correa is going to have an argument for WELL OVER $300 million guaranteed, and over a shorter term WITH opt-outs available. I couldn’t even guess at this point, though I suppose I try to remember that – for reasons that never became entirely clear – Correa couldn’t find that 10+ year, $300+ million offer last offseason. It’s possible the market doesn’t value him quite as highly as we do, but if you were setting the over under at something crazy like $350 million at this point, could you blame anyone who took the over? The market is just so completely transformed.
Speaking of which, even Swanson figures now to get a guarantee approaching $200 million, right? You could spread that over as many years as you want to play with the AAV, and maybe he won’t prefer super long (which, sure, could reduce the guarantee a little bit). But the point is, even though he doesn’t have the bat of the other three, even as the fourth guy in a class of four, he’s going to benefit from the market determining that $200 million is the new $140 million.
We’ll see if the Cubs adjust their thinking, broadly, in response to the market, or if they were just never as hot on these guys as some of the other teams.
At this point, a couple things are very clear to me:
1.) If the Cubs are going to land Correa, the contract would have to be lol-omg-wut nuts. Not saying you don’t do it, just saying that’s the market.
2.) Getting at least Swanson would definitely make me happy.
I feel … nervous. Let’s just put it that way.