Ranking Xander Bogaerts’ free agent landing spots: Who will challenge Red Sox for All-Star shortstop?

If there’s one universally held observation about this winter’s free-agent class, it’s that there are a dizzying amount of good shortstops available. In Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson, buyers who are looking to upgrade up the middle have plenty of options in order to make that desire a reality. 

Of course, part of the fun of the offseason is trying to figure out where certain players will end up. Today, we’ll do that exercise for Bogaerts, who, in our estimation, is closer to Correa and Turner in stature than he is to Swanson. (No disrespect to Swanson, but the aforementioned trio has tenure.) Indeed, CBS Sports recently ranked Bogaerts as the fifth-best free agent available this winter

Bogaerts is the Max Martin of shortstops, a consistent hitmaker with a sparkling trophy case. In each of the last five seasons, he’s appeared in at least 84 percent of his team’s games and has produced an OPS+ north of 125. He can hit for average, he can walk, and he’s mostly hit for power. This season proved to be an exception on that last note, though a late May collision with Alex Verdugo that resulted in wrist and shoulder discomfort might be to blame. Defensively, Bogaerts has been a few years away from moving off shortstop for, oh, a decade now. Statcast data confirms that he still doesn’t have top-end speed or arm strength relative to his peers. It’s not easy to convince a big-league team you’re playable at the six for this long unless you’re doing something right. Even if Bogaerts is asked by his next employer to shift elsewhere, you have to give him credit for the hard work he put into improving his defense. Do note that Bogaerts opted out of his contract with three years and $60 million remaining, suggesting he’s looking to improve on an AAV of $20 million. He should, easily. 

Anyway, you know the drill by now. This ranking is for entertainment purposes only, and should not cause you any distress if your team is a touch lower (or high) than you’d like. So, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Tier 1: Not happening

30. Pittsburgh Pirates
29. Oakland Athletics
28. Cincinnati Reds
27. Kansas City Royals
26. Colorado Rockies
25. Miami Marlins
24. Washington Nationals
23. Detroit Tigers

These teams are too far removed, financially and/or competitively, to imagine them factoring into the Bogaerts sweepstakes. We make this joke often in these columns, but can you picture Pirates executive Ben Cherington going to owner Bob Nutting and telling him he wants to make a nine-figure offer to a player? (You can’t, don’t lie.) Likewise, it’s hard to envision the Reds, as rich as any team in shortstop prospects, signing any veteran infielder to a big deal anytime soon. The rest are self-explanatory. 

Tier 2: Not a fit

22. Cleveland Guardians=
21. Chicago White Sox
20. Texas Rangers
19. New York Mets
18. Houston Astros
17. San Diego Padres
16. Toronto Blue Jays

These teams have the means and the competitive aspirations, but they don’t need Bogaerts for one reason or another — usually because they’re set at shortstop and/or third base. The Rangers, to pick a team, have two well-compensated middle infielders and a bevvy of youngsters, including former top-10 pick Josh Jung. The Astros and Padres, meanwhile, are very happy with their non-first-base infield situations.

Tier 3: Hard to see it

15. Baltimore Orioles
14. Tampa Bay Rays
13. Milwaukee Brewers
12. Los Angeles Angels
11. Minnesota Twins
10. St. Louis Cardinals

These are teams who would benefit from adding Bogaerts, but who seem highly unlikely to do so. Think of it this way. Maybe if Bogaerts slips through the cracks for some reason and is open to a one-year deal, the Brewers or Rays or Twins would come into play. At that point, though, you’d have to imagine one of the teams ranked below would find it in their budgets to have him in tow for a spin around the sun.

Tier 4: You can make the case

9. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. New York Yankees
7. Seattle Mariners  
6. Philadelphia Phillies 

Now we’re talking. The Diamondbacks have several executives in their front office who are familiar with Bogaerts, and adding a player of his caliber to their young lineup would certainly hasten their arrival as a possible contender; the Yankees could use an upgrade at either left-side-of-the-infield spot; the Mariners have been open about signing a shortstop who could move to another position; and the Phillies figure to take a swing at one or two of those top shortstops themselves. 

Yet you can poke holes in each of these cases in a way that you can’t, necessarily, with the teams ahead of them. To wit: are the Diamondbacks really going to make this kind of investment now? Would the Yankees want to do the same when they have Anthony Volpe coming? And the Mariners and Phillies would probably prefer Turner or Swanson for defensive purposes (though, one never knows for sure with the Phillies). Again, we can kind of see it — just not as clearly as with the next five teams.

Tier 1: The favorites

5. Atlanta Braves

Put simply, the Braves will need a shortstop if they don’t agree to terms with Swanson. Whether or not they’d take the plunge on Bogaerts rather than pursuing Correa or Turner (or someone else in a trade) is beyond us. It would be silly to not include them in this tier until we have reason to do otherwise.

4. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are a trendy pick on all the top shortstops. If you commit to the idea that they’re going to land one of them, then you’d be silly to not include them here. Our guess — and it’s just a guess — is that Bogaerts isn’t their top choice.

3. San Francisco Giants

The Giants, like the Cubs, are a good darkhorse pick on some of these top free agents. They’re committed to Brandon Crawford at shortstop, but adding Bogaerts at third base (or one of the other shortstops at second base) seems like a reasonable concept. 

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Unless the Dodgers are committed to giving Miguel Vargas a look at third base, they’re currently without their Opening Day starters at both left-side infield positions. They have a lot of money to spend this winter, making them a serious threat here and everywhere else when it comes to the elite free agents.

1. Boston Red Sox

Inertia is a powerful force, ain’t it? Chaim Bloom will have his work cut out for him this winter as he tries to keep Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers for the long haul. Bloom’s first major act as Boston’s top baseball executive was trading Mookie Betts. We can imagine a scenario where the Red Sox are without both Bogaerts and Devers in a year’s time, but we’d rather not see it come to fruition. The Red Sox are a big-market behemoth and should behave like one by giving Bogaerts his desired raise.

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