Many people are pointing to JBJ as the most logical Red Sox trade candidate. Earlier in the offseason, rumors were swirling concerning a potential match with San Francisco Giants. They are said to covet his elite defensive skills at the spacious AT&T Park. And while JBJ has his faults, he is dependable in that area of his game. Among qualified center fielders, Bradley was 7th in UZR/150. At the plate, it’s a crap shoot. As streaky as they come, 2016 saw him reel off a 29-game hit streak. At other times, he looks like a guy who had the third-highest swinging-strike percentage (13%) among MLB centerfielders. All thing being considered, JBJ can be counted on in the field, and you take what he gives you at the plate.
That’s more than can be said concerning Xander Bogaerts, following a dismal 2017 season. Many Red Sox fans may be unaware of how mediocre, no, sub-par, his season actually was.
Like centerfield, the shortstop position demands a certain defensive competency that Bogaerts has simply failed to provide. Among 20 qualified MLB shortstops, Xander was the only one to post a -negative- defensive WAR (-0.3). One would be hard-pressed to find a statistic that evaluates Bogaerts as even an average defensive player. UZR/150 may be the kindest to him, rating him as better than 1/3 of his competition. Only 5 MLB shortstops made more errors. But hey, we can tolerate the marginal defense (as we tolerate JBJ’s marginal defense) if he is has redeemable quality at the dish.
That brings us to Xander’s offense, and I warn you – it’s not pretty, either. In a season that saw 8 MLB shortstops hit 20 dingers, Bogaerts hit only 10, beating out only Alcides Escobar & Dansby Swanson. The former will likely settle for a minor league contract this offseason while he latter, a former #1 overall pick, was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett in late July. We cannot quickly forget Xander’s postseason either (1 for 17, BB, 4Ks, HR, RBI). To be fair, Bogaerts did continue to exercise excellent plate disciple (.343 OBP – 4th among SS), there’s just not enough. With Chili Davis gone and Cora pushing for a more aggressive overall approach, even that bright spot may grow dimmer.
It’s not fair or wise to give up on a player after one down season (See David Ortiz – 2009), there’s ample reason to believe that this was joy an aberration. Bogaerts has never demonstrated a prowess for power and his defense has been questioned since he made the transition from third base. At 6’2″ or 6’1″ (depends on who you ask), there is serious question as to whether his frame will allow him to continue to hold down the position. Some people point to A-Rod, Ripken, and Han-Ram as great, tall shortstops – but none of those guys finished their careers there. With Devers having his own defensive problems, it’s quite possible that Dombrowski is preparing for a future where Devers moves across he diamond and Bogaerts takes his position. That would help make sense of the short-term contract recently handed to Moreland.
But if that’s not the plan, maybe now is the time to live on. Xander is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and he’s no longer the cheap bargain of the past. MLBtraderumors has Bogaerts receiving a projected $7.6 million in his next-to-last trip through arbitration. And let’s not forget, his agent is Scott Boras. While it may be argued that trading Bogaerts now would be “selling low,” it can be argued that with another down season and a rising contract, his value may be set to go even lower.