Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP

After an offseason of fans calling for his head, the Red Sox shortstop is thriving under new leadership.

It has been years since the Red Sox and Yankees routinely faced off with superstar shortstops on each team. For the rival Bombers, Derek Jeter patrolled the infield, while fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra handled business for the Sox.

After years of mediocrity in Boston, a mainstay has finally arrived in Xander Bogaerts.

This is seen around Major League Baseball with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager headlining a group of immensely talented shortstops that will carry the league for the next decade. Manny Machado is having his finest offensive season now that he’s moved to his natural position, and there are defensive wizards such as Dansby Swanson that consistently grab attention.

While Xander shouldn’t be mentioned among the elite just yet, he’s getting closer and closer.¬†Each season he’s flashed the ability to have a breakout campaign before being derailed by injury. Last season, he hit a cool .303 in the first half of the season before injuring his hand and never fully recovering.

2018 has been a bounce-back for Xander offensively. He’s hitting for power, with 11 HR already, and his current .856 OPS would be the best in his career. There’s no question that the aggressive approach that has been instilled by Alex Cora and Tim Hyers has payed dividends this season. The launch angle craze has certainly reared its head in Boston.

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On a team with superstars like Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, and a budding superstar in Andrew Benintendi, Xander is not the Red Sox franchise player. Thankfully, the other players have carried that load.

However, with a depleted farm system, it’s not a stretch at all to say that Xander Bogaerts is this team’s franchise shortstop. A potential deal north of $300M for a franchise shortstop in Manny Machado this offseason will likely set the bar for Correa and Lindor when talks of an extension or free agency come up for the elite level shortstops.

While Bogaerts isn’t viewed in that category, it’s impossible to think that a player with his skill set and track record won’t be highly sought after going into his age 27 season as a free agent after the 2019 season.

Recently we documented the future payroll challenges facing the Red Sox.

Bogaerts is set to hit free agency with Chris Sale and likely JD Martinez if he exercises the opt out clause in his contract after the 2019 season. And while new contracts for Sale and Martinez should certainly be a priority for the club, the re-signing of Xander Bogaerts may end up being the most important.