Red Sox SS Bogaerts ready to step up as clubhouse leader
In less than a decade, Xander Bogaerts has gone from up-and-coming prospect to elder statesman in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.
"It's kind of crazy to think how time flies that quickly," Bogaerts told reporters in a Zoom call from spring training on Monday. "I was young, man. I just wanted to get to the big leagues, and make it from my little tiny Aruba.
"Now I'm eight years in the big leagues and I've accomplished some stuff so far at a young age," he said. "That fuels me to to continue to do it, to continue to be better and set an example."
Sill just 28, Bogaerts is already the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox, who signed him as an amateur free agent in 2009. He broke in to the majors late in the 2013 season and the time the team reached the World Series, he had played his way into the starting lineup.
"Now he's the older one," manager Alex Cora said on the first full day of team workouts. "I saw him today, walking around talking to players, growing into the leader that in envisioned a few years ago. It's going to be fun to work with him."
Dustin Pedroia had been Boston's senior statesman before he retired this winter, unable to return from the knee injury that limited him to nine total games over the past three season. He led like he played, Bogaerts said: Loudly, in your face, and doing whatever he could to win.
"He was just so short, but had the biggest mouth that could have walked into that clubhouse door. I think that fueled a lot of guys," Bogaerts said.
"He pushed a lot of guys, to get the best out of them. And he was such a great player for the team and the organization. He was true class, man."
The 2008 AL MVP addressed his former teammates by video on Monday during the first day of full-squad workouts, as did Cora and chairman Tom Werner. (The workouts were actually broken in two to allow for social distancing; the team meeting was held outdoors.)
"We talked about a few things: expectations, trust, family environment. It was a good one," Cora said. "To have the whole crew here, it's fun to see. It was a day we were waiting for, and now we can take off."
Bogaerts, who is more soft-spoken than Pedroia, isn't likely to try to duplicate his longtime double play partner's style. Instead, he will try to give his younger teammates the benefit of his experience, letting them know what is expected by the Red Sox and the city of Boston.
"I don't have that big mouth like Dustin had. I like to push people, though," Bogaerts said. "This game is hard, especially if you're going to play in Boston. It's a pretty strong market that requires a lot of winning.
"Last year was a pretty rough year for us in. ... I'm going to let guys know that the city expects winning at a high clip."
Bogaerts saw that in 2013, when he batted .296 with three doubles and a triple and helped the Red Sox win the World Series. Since then, he has made the All-Star team twice, including 2019, when he finished fifth in the AL MVP voting.
In the pandemic-shortened season last year, he batted .300 with 11 homers, 28 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 56 games.
"He's just a shortstop that hits .300, hits 30 and drives in 100," Cora said. "It's not only what you do at shortstop, it's how you act in the clubhouse, what you do for the community, how people see you in Boston. There's no red flags with him.
"People know how I feel about Carlos (Correa), and Javy (Baez) and Francisco (Lindor)," Cora said. "But I'm happy that Xander Bogaerts is my shortstop. I'm more than happy."
And he should have him for a while.
Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019 that could keep him in Boston through 2025. But it also has an opt-out after next season, and the market for star shortstops was shaken up this offseason when San Diego signed Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year deal for $340 million.
"Obviously, he got a boatload of money. Good for him; good for his family," Bogaerts said. "It's something good for the shortstop class that's going to come up this year. Hopefully all of them get paid the way they want to."
Lindor, Correa and Báez could be free agents after this season, along with other star shortstops such as Trevor Story and Corey Seager.
As for himself, Bogaerts said he hasn't thought about whether he will be back on the market in 2021.
"It's so far down the road," he said. "I remember when I signed, I was like: It's such such a long time before I'll even be a free agent again. As I said, time goes by quick. And you've got to make decisions sometimes even quicker than you anticipated."
NOTE: The Red Sox placed OF Franchy Cordero on the COVID-19 injured list Monday and claimed RHP Joel Payamps from the Toronto Blue Jays. They also added C Jett Bandy to the spring training roster.