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Making sense of the Diamondbacks’ reported interest in free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts

Jesse Friedman Avatar
December 6, 2022

SAN DIEGO — For the second time in the past week, the Diamondbacks have been tied to free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The rumor was first circulated by ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan in a column that he published last week. On Monday, MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi followed that up with a report of his own.

Bogaerts is an outstanding player. In his age-29 season with the Boston Red Sox in 2022, he slashed .307/.377/.456 with 15 homers, 73 RBI and 6.1 fWAR. Bogaerts’ shortstop defense has historically been below average, but his defense metrics in 2022 were well above average for the first time in his career.

Despite Bogaerts’ impressive résumé, he and the Diamondbacks are an odd pairing for several reasons. First, the Diamondbacks appear unlikely to add more than roughly $15-20 million in payroll this offseason. Bogaerts’ annual salary would almost certainly exceed that all by itself, seemingly leaving no room for the team to improve other aspects of the roster, such as the bullpen.

Second, the D-backs don’t appear to need a shortstop, at least not in the long term. Jordan Lawlar, who is widely regarded as one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball, is set to start the 2023 season in Double-A and could feasibly be in the majors before the end of the year.

When asked about whether the D-backs are interested in acquiring a shortstop, Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen emphasized that every option is on the table.

“I will continue to reiterate that we are exploring every avenue to make the team better,” Hazen said. “Just because something may look on the surface like it’s not a fit doesn’t mean we’re not engaged in that market.”

Hazen’s words continue a recent theme that suggests that the team is willing to branch out from the offseason blueprint it established when the season ended. That blueprint primarily consisted of adding to the bullpen, becoming more right-handed and finding a backup catcher. Now, it’s grown more complicated — or creative, perhaps.

“I don’t think we have the ability to just have a checklist and walk down the checklist of the needs that we have,” Hazen said. “The most obvious line is getting relievers to help fill our bullpen. I think [with] everything else there’s a degree of creativity that can go into how we construct the roster.”

For the Diamondbacks, signing Bogaerts would arguably be more bold than creative. As one of the best shortstops in the game, Bogaerts is almost sure to command a long-term, expensive contract; something in the range of six or seven years and around $180 million. When all is said and done, the total value of Bogaerts’ deal might not be far behind the six-year, $206.5 million deal that Zack Greinke signed in 2015, which is currently the richest free-agent contract the team has ever given.

It is worth noting that Hazen and Bogaerts have a connection that dates back to Hazen’s time as the Red Sox director of player development from 2006-11. Bogaerts was just beginning in his minor-league career at the time. When Bogaerts broke into the majors in 2012, Hazen was the Red Sox’ assistant GM.

When push comes to shove, it’s hard to envision the Diamondbacks outbidding the competition for Bogaerts’ services. All indications are that his market is robust, with the Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Cubs and Twins all being connected to the shortstop in recent days. Even with four elite shortstops up for grabs this winter in free agency — one of whom has already signed in Trea Turner — the demand seems to outweigh the supply. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which Bogaerts’ signs for significantly less than his projected amount, particularly after Turner got 11 years and $300 million guaranteed from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nonetheless, weird things happen. Just ask Carlos Correa, who hit free agency last winter after having arguably the best season of his career but still could not land the long-term deal he wanted. Correa chose to bet on himself instead and took a short-term deal with the Minnesota Twins. Now, he is slated to earn possibly even more money than Turner in his next contract.

If the Diamondbacks are somehow going to land Bogaerts, it might have to be the same kind of deal that brought Correa to Minnesota. The average annual value of such a deal would still be significant — Correa made ore than $35 million this past year with the Twins — but the Diamondbacks might be more willing to make the investment if there is less long-term risk.

Granted, a $35-million investment even for one year is still significant, and it would likely require the Diamondbacks to stretch beyond their anticipated payroll for 2023. On that, there are a couple of matters to consider.

First, according to SportBusiness’ Eric Fisher, Disney recently made a final payment of $900 million to buy BAMTech from Major League Baseball. That money, Fisher reported, is being split up among the 30 franchises, essentially resulting in a $30 million check being written to each team. That extra money could go a long way toward funding a contract for Bogaerts, particularly if it’s a short-term deal.

Second, there is at least some possibility that the Diamondbacks could create payroll space by shedding one of the heftier contracts on the roster. The team doesn’t have many big money-makers as it is, but finding a way to save all or some of the money owed to Madison Bumgarner, Nick Ahmed, Mark Melancon or Ketel Marte could theoretically move the needle. Most of those contracts — Bumgarner’s, in particular — would be difficult to move, however, without taking back a similarly sized contract or throwing in a prospect to sweeten the deal.

For the moment, Hazen said that the team is not focused on shedding any salary from the current roster, although he left open the possibility that could be an option should the need present itself.

Ultimately, despite the reports from credible sources like Passan and Morosi that link the Diamondbacks to Bogaerts, no one is reporting that the Diamondbacks are front-runners. By all accounts, it’s going to be very difficult for them to get to that point.

Other notes from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings

  • When asked how many more bullpen acquisitions the Diamondbacks could have in store for the rest of the offseason, Hazen said “probably one or two.” Both the free-agent and trade markets are in play, but he expects to pursue the latter with increased intensity as free agents come off the board and the trade market gains traction. 
  • As far as what type of relievers the Diamondbacks are looking for, Hazen said that the team is favoring righties slightly over lefties, and that adding swing-and-miss stuff to the backend is still a priority.
  • Even after acquiring Kyle Lewis in a trade with the Seattle Mariners two weeks ago, Hazen said that the Diamondbacks could look to add another right-handed hitting outfielder in the coming weeks. Lewis’ injury history has raised questions about his ability to play in the field regularly, so adding a right-handed hitter who can reliably play corner outfield could be valuable.

Follow Jesse Friedman on Twitter

Top photo: Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

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