NEW YORK -- With shortstop Xander Bogaerts set to opt out of his contract after 2022, the question of whether he will be back with the Boston Red Sox next year looms over the team's season. When asked on Thursday whether he expected to come to an agreement with the Red Sox on a contract extension before their season starts on Friday, Bogaerts did not mince words.
"No," Bogaerts said. "No."
Boston offered Bogaerts an extension during the offseason, but the 29-year-old turned down the offer. According to team sources, Bogaerts asked for a contract that paid him in line with the game's highest-paid shortstops: Carlos Correa (who makes $35.1 million with the Minnesota Twins), Francisco Lindor (who makes $34.1 million with the New York Mets) and Corey Seager (who makes $33 million with the Texas Rangers).
The Red Sox declined to match that request.
"I can't do nothing about it right now," Bogaerts said in a deflated tone. "I got a season coming up in front of me. I don't want to put my teammates with that kind of distraction. They don't deserve it. We had time to get something done. It didn't work out."
Since coming up as one of the game's top prospects, Bogaerts repeatedly expressed his desire to stay with the Red Sox for his entire career, which started when Boston discovered him and his twin brother, Jair, in Aruba at 16 years old. That desire to remain a Red Sox player for life is what motivated him to sign a six-year, $120 million contract at the start of the 2019 season, opting out of free agency despite hiring agent Scott Boras, who rose to fame maximizing player salaries on the open market.
But in the media conference room at Yankee Stadium, Bogaerts seemed resigned that he and the Red Sox would not meet eye to eye on his contract ahead of Friday's season opener.
A lot of money comes off of Boston's payroll after the 2022 season, with designated hitter J.D. Martinez, Kiké Hernández and Nathan Eovaldi all scheduled to hit the open market. According to Red Sox front-office sources, the team's top priority is re-signing Rafael Devers to a contract, placing a higher urgency on keeping the 25-year-old third baseman's generational offensive talent ahead of retaining Bogaerts, who will turn 30 in October.
When asked about Bogaerts' future in Boston, one front-office official said the team remained open to bringing back the current leader of the Red Sox clubhouse but also stated that if Bogaerts has a strong 2022 season that drives up his price on the open market even further, it would lower the chances of the Red Sox signing him.
"We are not in the business of signing 10-year deals for a lot of money, because those contracts mostly do not work out well for teams," said the front-office member.
The looming contract situation with Bogaerts influenced Boston's front office in its offseason approach. The team initially circled Corey Seager as its top free-agent target before his contract negotiations exceeded what the team felt comfortable extending to a player, according to team sources. Seager signed a 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers.
With Seager out of its price range, Boston set its sights on Trevor Story. The Red Sox signed Story to a six-year, $140 million contract this offseason after the front office identified the former Colorado Rockies infielder as one of the most undervalued players on the open market with the belief that other teams were overstating the impact of the transition away from Coors Field on Story's future offensive production. The team also projected that Story's spray chart would translate well to Fenway Park and the American League East, particularly the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.
The team signed Story content with the idea of him playing second base for the entirety of the contract, should Bogaerts stay in Boston, but felt comfortable moving him back to shortstop should Bogaerts leave.
The signing of Story marked the first free-agent signing with a long-term financial investment during chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom's tenure with the team. According to Red Sox baseball operations sources, there was growing wave of discontent in some parts of the front office about Bloom's lack of willingness to invest significant amounts of money in free agency. The signing of Story calmed any front-office tension about the willingness of baseball operations leadership to invest in star players, sources said.
Since Boston tapped Bloom to run the baseball operations department, the team has shown a reluctance toward extending large amounts of money across long periods of time for one player. That baseball operations philosophy informed the team's decision to trade Mookie Betts, who signed a 12-year, $365 million contract after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Critics among the Boston media and fans have pejoratively named Bloom's Red Sox as Tampa Bay East, referring to the Rays' unwillingness to invest significant amounts of money during Bloom's time with the team from 2005 through 2019.
But according to front-office sources, the Red Sox are considering making Devers an exception to that philosophy. Because of Devers's youth compared to Bogaerts, the team sees a longer-term investment as a safer bet.
The 25-year-old is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2023 season, and the team is weighing the cost-benefit analysis of signing the third baseman to a long-term contract that would pay him along the lines of the game's richest third basemen, including Manny Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with San Diego; Nolan Arenado, who signed an eight-year, $260 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals; and Anthony Rendon, who signed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
In spring training, Devers said he and his agent talked with the team about an extension, but the two sides could not come to an agreement.
"I still have one more year," Devers told the Boston Globe through interpreter Carlos Villoria-Benítez. "I have this one and the next year. And I'm ready to play with Boston, with the Red Sox. We're not going to talk about it [more] this spring. Let's see how this season goes."
The tone from Devers contrasted drastically from Bogaerts on Thursday.
"It didn't work out," Bogaerts said curtly. "We'll see where it goes from there."
And as the days roll on, where Bogaerts' future seems to be going appears less and less likely to be in Boston.