Friday, June 2 2023

SAN DIEGO — The Padres this week lost out on both Trea Turner and Aaron Judge despite outbidding both players’ chosen suitors. Late Wednesday, they ensured they would not fail a third time. Instead, they coaxed longtime Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts to move cross-country for an 11-year, $280 million contract that far surpassed previous projections.

Bogaerts, 30, is not a natural fit in the San Diego position player group. The Padres already employed one shortstop too many. Now they have three, between Bogaerts, Ha-seong Kim and Fernando Tatís Jr. Of course, Tatís missed last season because of an injury and a PED suspension. He’s due back in late April, but it’s entirely unclear where he will play once he returns.

Manny Machado is entrenched at third base. The last time Bogaerts played a position besides shortstop was July 30, 2014. Kim is an elite defender who is not nearly as valuable if he is not playing shortstop. And Tatís is a disgraced superstar who has played 90% of his career innings at shortstop. 

All of this, though, is evidently secondary. The Padres wanted another elite hitter, and, with their farm system depleted following all their 2022 trades, they stopped at nothing to acquire one. Between Judge and Turner, San Diego reportedly outbid the teams that signed them by nearly a combined $100 million. And it seems the Padres may have outbid Bogaerts’ previous employer by almost $100 million alone. 

Clearly, the Red Sox misjudged Bogaerts’ market. He is not exactly a superstar, but he has for years proven that he at least belongs in this sport’s second tier of stars. Over the past five seasons, he has averaged 149 games played and a sturdy .301 batting average. 

That average ranks among the highest within that span, and only Freddie Freeman has been a more consistent contact hitter with power over those years. Bogaerts’ OPS+ has rated between 128 and 139 in each of the past five seasons. In other words, he has been consistently great, if just shy of exceptional.

The Padres, it could be argued, make perfect sense for that reason. Between Tatís and deadline acquisition Juan Soto, they already possess plenty of elite potential. What they have lacked in recent seasons was consistency.

Bogaerts will supply that, at least for the foreseeable future, wherever he plays. Right now, that is a mystery. Beyond their three shortstops, the Padres also employ Jake Cronenworth, a competent second baseman who will not be quite as valuable if he is forced to become an everyday first baseman. If Tatís moves to center field, he’ll displace the talented defensive outfielder Trent Grisham.

Maybe this will precipitate a trade. Tatís has a full no-trade clause, but perhaps he would consent to a fresh start. Kim has two years and $15 million left on his contract, and he would be attractive to whichever teams miss out on Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson, the remaining free-agent shortstops.

The Padres will probably figure something out. Boston has bigger concerns at this point. Bogaerts has been a franchise cornerstone since 2014, beloved outside and inside the organization. It was just last week he was teasing manager Álex Cora by text about the Netherlands-USA World Cup match. And, after losing Mookie Betts and now Bogaerts, general manager Chaim Bloom will be criticized on the city’s sports radio stations for months, if not years, to come. 

Nine months ago, Bloom signed Trevor Story to a six-year deal worth exactly half as much as Bogaerts’. Story did not especially impress during his first season in New England, but it’s conceivable he could come back to produce comparable value to Bogaerts in 2023. Over their careers, Story has actually been considerably more valuable on a rate basis than Bogaerts.

But try telling that to a Red Sox fan right now. Bogaerts long ago established himself as a pure hitter who exuded joy about his job. Now he is a Padre, alongside Tatís, and Machado, and Soto.

The Padres have committed so much money over the past few years that nobody knows how long they can sustain this. But on Wednesday night, only those outside the San Diego organization were wondering about that. The Padres themselves were celebrating one more success, after a couple notable failures. They couldn’t sign Judge or Turner, but they got Bogaerts, and Bogaerts is pretty great.

Top stories from FOX Sports:

Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of “How to Beat a Broken Game.” Follow him on Twitter at @pedromoura.

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