Red Sox Ratings: Free Agency, Bogaerts, Payroll

The Red Sox have signed five free agent pitchers – Michael Wacha, James Paxton, rich hill, Matt Strahm and Jake Diekman – so far this winter. Their only significant change on the positional player front, however, was arguably a demotion in 2022. An hour before the lockout, Boston traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers in a deal that brought Jackie Bradley Jr. Return to Fenway Park.

While the Sox have yet to upgrade their positional player mix, they have been at least loosely tied to a few of the top names in free agency. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman suggested this morning that they might be in the mix for Freddie Freeman. They would be among the teams vying for the NPB star outfielder Seiya Suzuki. Before the lockdown, reports linked them to each of the Carlos Correa and Trevor’s Story.

There are myriad possibilities that Boston’s front office could pursue, a fact that baseball executive Chaim Bloom acknowledged in an interview with reporters yesterday (via The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey). “We talked about this before the lockout… that we still want to add position players to the group“said Bloom.”The (Renfroe) trade we made on Dec. 1 kind of flipped our lineup balance where we have an opening for a right-handed bat. That said, in this time, especially with so much going on and talking, we want to be nimble enough to take advantage of every opportunity.

Bloom declined to specify a positioning target area, pointing to the flexibility Henri Hernandez provides the club with its ability to competently manage both center field and second base. This was bolstered by the wide range of players they would have inquired about, but their ties to the free agent’s top two shortstops are made more difficult by the presence of their in-house All-Star option there.

Speaking with reporters (including Christopher Smith of MassLive) this afternoon, Xander Bogaerts didn’t seem enamored with the ability to change position to accommodate an external addition. “I’m a shortstop, man. It’s where I’ve played my whole career and obviously a position I’m very proud of.“, said the 29-year-old. “I love being there.Bogaerts said he and the team did not discuss the possibility of a job change.

If Bogaerts remains staunchly opposed to giving up the shortstop, it would complicate any Red Sox efforts to legitimately push Correa or Story. Correa is one of the game’s leading defenders in this position, following a Gold Glove winning campaign. The story is would intend by signing with a team that will keep him at shortstop. It seems unlikely at this point either will sign with a team that doesn’t want to make room for them in the most demanding infield position.

Unlike Correa or Story, Bogaerts doesn’t have the freedom to choose a team for 2022. Still, he will have the chance to test the open market next offseason, as he can opt out of the final three years and $60 million on his deal at the end of this season. Given the quality of his play over the past few seasons, he’s certainly on track to trigger the opt-out, leaving Bloom and his team to figure out if they want to earmark future funds for a possible extension. (Star third baseman Raphael Devers is also in its final two years of referee review).

The Red Sox should have plenty of long-term flexibility, though. Jason Martinez of Roster Resource projects his luxury tax payroll for the 2022 season at $213 million, just below the basic tax threshold of $230 million. Looking ahead to 2023, a large swath of post-2022 free agents and a possible deactivation of Bogaerts could see that number drop to just $60 million, leaving plenty of spots to fill on the team’s active roster and a huge amount of funds to fill them with. Bloom acknowledged this, teasing this future financial flexibility”opens up more options for us, maybe (more) than the ones we’ve been working with for the past two years.