The storm surrounding Xander Bogaerts subsided ever so slightly as an otherwise disappointing Red Sox season wound to a close.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom took the uncommon step of informing Bogaerts he wouldn't be traded at the deadline. CEO Sam Kennedy repeatedly declared him a primary offseason priority. Manager Alex Cora said he expected Bogaerts would be his shortstop for a long time.
And perhaps most importantly, Bogaerts relaxed while delivering one of his best all-around seasons, especially defensively. The tone of hurt and confusion that marked the start of the season when the Red Sox low-balled him was replaced by something more wistfully upbeat when it ended.
"I'm proud of the man I've become," Bogaerts said on the final weekend of the season.
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Bogaerts can opt out of his contract five days after the World Series. The Red Sox retain exclusive negotiating rights until then, and the hope is that the sides strike a deal before he hits the market.
That's a lovely sentiment, but it excludes one rather important player: Scott Boras.
Bogaerts's agent is the best in the history of the business for one reason, and it's not a sentimental streak. Boras makes his clients rich, one record-setting contract after another.
He's primed to strike again for Bogaerts, who reportedly met with owners John Henry and Tom Werner in recent weeks, per the Boston Sports Journal. The borderline desperation the Red Sox have exhibited since the season went south has succeeded in shifting the public narrative from, "I can't believe they're going to let Bogaerts walk," to, "They say they're going to step up to the plate, so let's see if they do it."
What all the entreaties have also done is give Boras the power that he exploits like no other -- leverage.
Bogaerts has already accepted one below-market extension from the Red Sox, back in 2019, and he promptly made that six-year, $120 million deal look like a steal when he set career-highs in everything and finished fifth in the MVP voting.
Bogaerts never once complained even as the shortstop market exploded around him. He instead stayed true to his character by playing hard every day. He was an All-Star this year and will probably finish in the top 10 of the MVP vote. Fans love the homegrown star not just for the quality of his play, but also his classy, professional demeanor. He doesn't want to leave.
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After another last-place finish, the heat is on the Red Sox to stop bleeding talent and start retooling around their foundational players. Boras knows this, and there's zero incentive for him to sign with the Red Sox now when he can create competition for Bogaerts' services in just a couple of weeks.
That's what makes the four-year, $90 million extension offer of this spring extra damaging, because it effectively ended negotiations, robbed the talks of goodwill, and set Bogaerts on a path to testing the market.
Now that he's so close, the only way he doesn't reach free agency is if his loyalty to the organization trumps his business sense. No matter what the Red Sox offer, Boras could simply use it as a baseline on the open market and then come back to Boston if no one exceeds the offer.
It's also worth noting that Boras has made an art out of extending negotiations. He memorably took Bryce Harper to the end of February before signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies in 2019. While shortstops like Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez took the money during last year's lockout-shortened offseason, another Boras client, Carlos Correa, instead effectively signed a one-year contract with the Twins so he could hit the market again this winter.
Boras will not be rushed, especially when he's got a desperate club on the hook. Let them dangle for a bit, play with the line, reel them in.
Anyone hoping for a quick resolution to the Bogaerts situation would be wise to remember who's representing him.