Red Sox are on the clock as Xander Bogaerts becomes a free agent

After months of speculation, the Boston Red Sox now face a tough reality. Xander Bogaerts has officially opted out of his current contract, electing to become a free agent for the first time in his career.

The 30-year-old veteran shortstop’s market value far exceeds the $20 million per season he’d be getting for the final 3 years of his deal.

Time for Red Sox to show Xander Bogaerts is a top priority

As avoidable as this day may have felt at times, none of that matters now. All that matters is the Red Sox are officially on the clock. MLB free agency begins on Thursday at 5PM ET. Bogaerts may no longer be a member of the Red Sox, but no other teams can talk to him (yet) either.

Chaim Bloom has insisted that keeping Bogaerts in Boston long-term is the organization’s top priority. This is no surprise; he is the heartbeat of the clubhouse, one of the best shortstops in baseball, and the only player still with the team who was on the roster for the last 2 World Series titles (2013, 2018).

Unfortunately, the 2022 Red Sox showed that they have several major roster gaps that separate them from mediocrity and World Series contenders. The organization’s needs heading into what will surely be a busy off-season include:

  • Shortstop
  • Starting Pitching
  • Relief Pitching
  • Corner Outfielder
  • Designated Hitter

The team does have a notable core of returning players, including:

  • Infielders: Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, Triston Casas, and Christian Arroyo
  • Outfielders: Alex Verdugo and Kiké Hernández
  • Relievers: John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, and Matt Barnes
  • Starters: Garrett Whitlock, Nick Pivetta, and Brayan Bello

It’s a solid start, and it’s not an exhaustive list, but nevertheless it wouldn’t be enough to make the Red Sox World Series contenders. Some of the same major weaknesses from last season would carry into 2023:

  • Pitching, pitching, and pitching (rotation and bullpen)
  • Power and overall offensive production (particularly from the outfielders)

The Red Sox will also hope for a Chris Sale resurgence. He recently opted into the final 3 years of his 5-year deal (which ties him to the team through 2025). When he’s on the field, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. The problem is he hasn’t been on the field, logging fewer than 50 innings over the last 3 seasons combined. It also remains to be seen if he will be able to pitch with the same level of effectiveness as he enters his age-34 season.

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It remains a no-doubter that the Red Sox need to address the pitching staff’s weaknesses during the off-season, whether it is via free agency or trade (or some combination of the two). The 2022 Postseason revealed the key to success.

AL Team Bullpen ERA (2022 regular season ranking)

  1. Astros
  2. Yankees
  3. Guardians
  4. Mariners
  5. Rays

AL Team Overall ERA (2022 regular season ranking)

  1. Astros
  2. Yankees
  3. Rays
  4. Guardians
  5. Mariners

The Red Sox ranked 14th (second-worst) in both bullpen ERA and overall staff ERA. The ALCS featured the two best pitching staffs (by ERA) in the league. Each of the top 5 pitching staffs made the playoffs.

This off-season will be a pivotal one for Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox front office. Finishing in basement of the AL East with the 6th highest payroll in baseball is inexcusable, and the fanbase will not accept a repeat of 2022.

There are plenty of moves to make, but this one is a no-brainer. The Red Sox need to keep Xander Bogaerts in Boston. Chaim Bloom said keeping Xander Bogaerts is the top priority for the Red Sox. Actions speak louder than words.