The offseason started without ambiguity. It started with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom declaring Xander Bogaerts to be his top priority. It started with team president Sam Kennedy saying he would “disappointed” to lose one of the “most important people in the history of this organization.” It started with manager Alex Cora leaving no wiggle room about who he wanted in the middle of the field and the middle of the lineup.
“I hope he’s my shortstop for however long I want to manage,” Cora said.
Two months later, Bogaerts is gone.
Late Wednesday night, the 30-year-old signed a stunning 11-year deal with the Padres. So, on to the obvious question:
Now what? Who replaces Bogaerts at short, in the lineup, in the clubhouse?
One of the Big Two
The offseason started with four high-end shortstops on the free agent market. Trea Turner signed first. Now Bogaerts. That leaves two legitimate all-everything shortstops available to the highest bidder.
The most obvious alternative is for the Red Sox to sign one of them.
Carlos Correa has an existing relationship with manager Alex Cora from their time together in Houston. Dansby Swanson is probably the cheapest of the bunch and is coming off a career year in Atlanta (where he’s won a World Series). When The Athletic ranked the offseason’s top 50 free agents, both Correa and Swanson were ahead of Bogaerts. That’s questionable — especially Swanson — but speaks to the potential impact of each player. The Red Sox wanted to sign a top free-agent shortstop, and they still can.
Go cheaper and go bigger
The next tier of free-agent shortstop is, let’s say, underwhelming. Awful might be a better word, but frankly, some of these guys were well above replacement level last season, which is, I guess, something.
Elvis Andrus had a 103 OPS+ and rated 3 outs above average in Oakland and Chicago last season. José Iglesias was a .292 hitter and a roughly average fielder in Colorado. Those two aren’t good necessarily, but they’ll come cheap and would let the Red Sox spend their shortstop money elsewhere. The rotation. The outfield. The bullpen. Designated hitter. Take your pick.
Sign Carlos Rodón to be the ace? Sign both Nathan Eovaldi and Kodai Senga to really lengthen the rotation? Sign Brandon Nimmo to play the outfield, and either trade Alex Verdugo or use him at DH? Take on a salary dump of some sort?
Point is, the Red Sox planned to spend a ton of money on Bogaerts. Could they now use that money on something other than a shortstop?
Turn to the trade market
Here’s one problem with the trade market: Something like one-third of all big-league teams reportedly have been in the market for one of the big free-agent shortstops. That doesn’t leave many clubs with a shortstop to spare. Two teams that might have an extra shortstop lying around — the Yankees (Isiah Kiner-Falefa) and Rays (Taylor Walls) — are in the division and not the easiest trade partners even if they were to make a deal (the Rays might have no interest, even with Wander Franco).
So, who could the Red Sox even get? The Brewers reportedly are not trading Willy Adames even after trading Kolten Wong. Javier Báez is surely available in Detroit, but goodness that contract looks bad. The Guardians could trade Amed Rosario, who’s a free agent after this season, but he’s a key part of a contending club. The Cardinals have largely moved on from Paul DeJong, who’s owed more than $9 million next year and seems like a classic change-of-scenery candidate. The Marlins have glove-first Miguel Rojas in his walk year. Would the Padres trade Ha-Seong Kim now that they have Bogaerts?
Add a center fielder or second baseman
The Red Sox have said Kiké Hernández or Trevor Story could play shortstop. They’ve also said it’s not their preferred route, but their preference just walked out the door, so they’re onto Plans B, C, D and E. Moving either Hernández or Story to shortstop would require finding a new center fielder or second baseman. Of course, the problem with that is that those positions are especially weak in this free-agent market. Nimmo is an exception in center field, but after that it’s Kevin Kiermaier and not much else. At second base it’s Jean Segura, Adam Frazier and some utility types.
The big trade candidate here is Bryan Reynolds, who has three more years of team control and reportedly wants out of Pittsburgh, but he’s going to cost a boatload of prospect capital (he might be worth it, too). Some of the other up-the-middle options that pop up in occasional trade speculation: Ramón Laureano? Nick Senzel? Aaron Hicks? Nick Madrigal? Victor Robles? Jonathan Schoop? Are any of these guys worth playing a less-than-ideal shortstop?
(Top photo of Correa: Icon Sportswire via AP Images)