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Ranking Xander Bogaerts’ free agent landing spots: Who will challenge Red Sox for All-Star shortstop?

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If there’s one generally accepted observation about the free agent class this winter, it’s that there’s a dizzying amount of good shortstops available. At Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson, shoppers looking to rise above average have plenty of options to make that wish come true.

Of course, part of the fun in the off-season is figuring out where certain players will end up. Today we will do this exercise for Bogaerts, who, in our estimation, is closer to Correa and Turner in height than to Swanson. (With all due respect to Swanson, the aforementioned trio have a permanent position.) Indeed, CBS Sports recently ranked Bogaerts as the fifth-best free agent available this winter:

Bogarts is Max Martin among the shortstops, a regular hitmaker with a glittering trophy case. In each of the last five seasons, he has appeared in at least 84 percent of his team’s games and has more OPS+ than 125. He can average, he can walk, and he gets hit mainly for strength. This season proved to be the exception on that last note, although a late-May collision with Alex Verdugo that resulted in wrist and shoulder discomfort may have been the culprit. Defensively, Bogarts was a few years away from being a shortstop, oh, oh, ten years. Statcast data confirms that he still doesn’t have top speed or arm strength compared to his peers. It’s not easy to convince a major league team that you can play in the top six for that long if you don’t do something right. Even if his next employer asks Bogarts to move elsewhere, you have to give him credit for the hard work he put in to improve his defense. Note that Bogarts opted out of his contract with three years and $60 million remaining, suggesting he wants a $20 million AAV upgrade. He should, easily.

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Anyway, you already know the exercise. This rating is for entertainment purposes only and should not cause you concern if your team is slightly lower (or higher) than you would like. So, with that on the way, let’s get to it.

Level 1: Not happening

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30. Pittsburgh Pirates
29. Oakland Athletics
28. Cincinnati Reds
27. Kansas City Royals
26. Colorado Rockies
25. Miami Marlins
24. Washington Nationals
23. Detroit Tigers

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These teams are too far apart financially and/or competitively to imagine their participation in the Bogaerts lotteries. We often joke about it in these columns, but can you imagine Pirates chief executive Ben Cherington walking up to club owner Bob Nutting and telling him he wants to make a player a nine-figure offer? (You can’t, don’t lie.) It’s just as hard to imagine that the Reds, as wealthy as any team in short-stop prospects, would sign any seasoned infielder to a big deal anytime soon. The rest speak for themselves.

Level 2: not suitable

22. Cleveland Guardians=
21. Chicago White Sox
20. Texas Rangers
19. New York Mets
18. Houston Astros
17. San Diego Padres
16. Toronto Blue Jays

These teams have the means and competitive aspirations, but for one reason or another they don’t need the Bogerts—usually because they’re at shortstop and/or third base. The Rangers have two well-paid middle infielders and a group of youths to choose from, including former top 10 pick Josh Young. The Astros and Padres, meanwhile, are very happy with their infield situations not occupying first base.

Level 3: It’s hard to see

15. Baltimore Orioles
14. Tampa Bay Rays
13. Milwaukee Brewers
12. Los Angeles Angels
11 Minnesota Twins
10. St. Louis Cardinals

These are teams that would benefit from adding Bogart but are unlikely to do so. Think of it this way. Maybe if Bogarts slips away for some reason and is open to a one-year contract, the Brewers, Race or Twins will come into play. At this point, however, you would have to imagine that one of the teams ranked below would find it in their budget to take it in tow to orbit the sun.

Level 4: You can do the deed

9. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. New York Yankees
7. Seattle Mariners
6. Philadelphia Phillies

Now we are talking. The Diamondbacks have several front office executives familiar with Bogarts, and adding a player of his caliber to their young roster would certainly hasten their emergence as a possible contender; The Yankees could use the upgrade on any left side of the infield; The Mariners were open about signing a short-stop that could move to another position; and the Phillies are looking to take on one or two of those top shortstops themselves.

However, you can find holes in each of these cases in a way that you cannot, necessarily, with commands ahead of them. Namely, are the Diamondbacks really going to make that kind of investment now? Will the Yankees want to do the same when Anthony Volpe comes to them? Both the Mariners and the Phillies will likely choose Turner or Swanson for defensive purposes (although you can never be sure with the Phillies). Again, we can see it, just not as clear as in the next five commands.

Level 1: Favorites

5. Atlanta Braves

Simply put, the Brave will need a shortstop if they don’t agree to terms with Swanson. Whether they decide on Bogarts or not, instead of going after Correa or Turner (or anyone else in the trade), we don’t know. It would be foolish not to include them in this level until we have a reason to do otherwise.

4. Chicago Cubs

Cubs are a fashionable choice on all major shortstops. If you are committed to the idea that they are going to land one of them, then it would be foolish not to include them here. Our assumption – and this is just a guess – is that Bogaerts is not the best choice.

3. San Francisco Giants

The Giants, like the Cubs, are a good dark horse for some of these top free agents. They are committed to Brandon Crawford at shortstop, but adding Bogaerts at third base (or one of the other shortstops at second base) seems like a smart concept.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

If the Dodgers aren’t intent on giving Miguel Vargas a look at third base, they currently don’t have their Opening Day starters in both left infield positions. They have a lot of money to spend this winter, which makes them a serious threat here and everywhere when it comes to elite free agents.

1. Boston Red Sox

Inertia is a powerful force, isn’t it? Chaim Bloom won’t have a job this winter as he tries to keep the Bogarts and third baseman Rafael Devers for the long haul. Bloom’s first major act as Boston’s top baseball executive was the trade of Mookie Betts. We can imagine a scenario where the Red Sox are without Bogarts and Devers in a year, but we wouldn’t want that to come true. The Red Sox are a behemoth in a big market and they need to act accordingly to give Bogarts the promotion he wants.


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