Corey Seager and Scott Boras secured a massive 10-year, $330 million contract with the Rangers just before the lockout started in 2021. Few were surprised, as Seager was just 27 years old and coming off two seasons where he hit .306/.381/.545 in 147 games for the Dodgers.
Seager was expected to earn a boatload, and he did. Boras, after negotiating Carlos Correa’s unique three-year, two opt-outs deal with the Twins, is seeking another huge payday. Correa is surely looking for a very similar contract to what Seager inked with Texas. Correa is a better defender, more durable and through his age-27 season, much more valuable than Seager.
Seager’s bat is the draw but even there, Correa stands toe-to-toe. Seager posted a 131 OPS+ through his age-27 season, while Correa sits at 129. Defensively, Seager has posted negative-8 Defense Runs Saved at short, while Correa has saved a positive-70. Add in Correa’s incredible postseason pedigree and he’s worth every penny (and probably more) of the $330 million Seager received.
The largest contract the Twins have ever handed out was to their homegrown future Hall-of-Famer Joe Mauer. Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million extension is worth 56% of what Seager signed for. The Twins have never signed a free agent for even $100 million and their largest spree (Josh Donaldson ) resulted in a salary dump halfway through the deal.
The Twins are likely to make Correa a considerable offer but it’s almost certain to fall well short of the final price. Is there a world where you see the Twins handing out a $300 million contract? Correa’s return feels futile.
Enter a much more affordable and viable happy medium: Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts, 30, is the oldest of the four premier shortstops on the market. Because of his age and defensive questions, Bogaerts is unlikely to receive a contract on the level of Seager and Correa. The Twins may not be willing to splurge for $330 million, but would they do $100 million less?
Among the four top shortstops on the market, Bogaerts has been the best hitter over the last five seasons. He leads Correa, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson in on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.508), home runs (105) and RBI (400). Adjusting for league and ballpark, Bogaerts’ 133 OPS+ is the best of the bunch.
Bogaerts has posted an OPS at 28% or better than the league average for five straight years while appearing in 641 of 708 games (90%). Bogaerts hits for a high average, doesn’t really strike out and has hit 20 or more homers in three of the last five seasons. He's been the face of the Red Sox, already logging over 1,000 games in a Boston uniform.
So why won’t he get as big of a payday as Correa?
Well, Bogaerts is now into his 30s and isn’t hitting for as much power as he once did. Bogaerts’ slugging percentage has slowly declined since its high-mark in 2019 (.555), with 2022 marking his lowest slug and barrel rate since 2017. Bogaerts hit only 15 homers in 150 games while ranking in just the 35th percentile in average exit velocity.
Defensively, Bogaerts has the lowest dWAR of the four since 2018 (1.6). While he saved a career high four runs in 2022, Bogaerts has been a shaky defensive shortstop in his career. Did he turn a corner in 2022? Or was it a true outlier on an otherwise shoddy track record with a weaker-than-average arm?
Those questions shouldn’t concern the Twins as much as other clubs. Bogaerts is a perfect segue to Royce Lewis or Brooks Lee , the Twins’ hopeful shortstop(s) of the future. Bogaerts could man short for a year or two before moving to second or third base. Teams shouldn’t sign Bogaerts expecting him to play short for the next decade and in the Twins’ case, that’s OK.
Even in a down power year, Bogaerts posted 5.7 b-Wins Above Replacement, tied for seventh most in the American League. Bogaerts hit .307/.377/.456 in arguably the best division in baseball. The 1-2 punch of
It’s difficult to pinpoint just how much Bogaerts will receive in free agency and whether his incumbent Red Sox will work hard to keep him. Boston just signed Trevor Story
to a $140 million contract, presumably expecting him to play short upon Bogaerts’ departure. Boston was unable to lock Bogaerts up before the season and now it feels more real than ever that this long-standing relationship is coming to an end.
The most interesting (and encouraging) aspect of this free agent class is the questionable involvement of the top markets. The Yankees clearly believe top prospect Anthony Volpe is close, while the Dodgers could just re-sign Turner. The Mets have Francisco Lindor on a $341 million deal and the Red Sox may move Story back to his position. The Cubs, Phillies, Braves, and Cardinals are among the likeliest suitors for the top four.
A decent contract comp for Bogaerts could be Marcus Semien, who signed a 7-year, $175 million deal with the Texas Rangers last winter. The Twins have clean books and a desire to avoid long contracts, so could they woo Bogaerts with a five-year, $175 million deal ($35 million per year)? It feels more viable than Correa, at least.
Bogaerts, like Correa, is represented by Boras. It should be fascinating to see how this winter plays out for both of them, with the Twins a viable suitor for each. What do you think? Is Bogaerts a happy medium for the Twins, in both price and position projection?