2 Days until Padres Opening Day: Get to know the X-Man

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2 Days till Opening Day

After reaching the NLCS in 2022, the Padres are arguably coming off its most successful campaign since 1998. 

When Peter Seidler took over as the Chairman of the team in November of 2020, he made it clear the goal was not to win just a couple playoff series but to bring the city of San Diego its first World Series. 

“The bottom line is we’re here to win a championship, and we came reasonably close last year,” Seidler said.

During the winter meetings, held back in December 2022, it shocked many to find out that the Padres were in negotiations with superstars like Trea Turner and Aaron Judge

Eager to bolster the team’s offense, Seidler went down the line and signed the next-best bat on the open market in Xander Bogaerts

Seidler is putting his money where his mouth is. Including Bogaerts 11-year, $280 million contract, the Padres’ 2023 payroll is projected at $250 million, according to baseballrefernce.com. That number is more than four times the payroll in 2017 at $61 million.

Why the X-Man?

The signing of Xander Bogaerts in itself shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. 

One of the most respected players in the league, the five-time silver slugger and four-time All-Star has established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball in the last decade. 

Padres General Manager AJ Preller noted, “We were looking for that right fit, that right piece that will help us get over the top,” Preller said.

In 10 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, the “X Man” has hit .292 with 156 home runs and 683 runs batted in. While he may not cause havoc on the base paths, his baserunning metrics and 74 career stolen bases are a good indicator of his athleticism. 

While with the Sox, Bogaerts was a part of two world championships in 2013 and 2018. When he signed with the Padres this winter, he saw this as a destination where he could win again. 

“We know we have a lot of really, really talented players on this team. We have some of the best players in this game. Everyone has to check their egos at the door and have to go for the same goal. We all want to win, and we all know what it takes to win,” Bogaerts said earlier this week. 

Another Shortstop?

One early criticism of the Bogaerts signing was how he would fit in the infield. 

Before the 2021 season, Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a massive 14-year, $340 million contract to presumably make him the Padres starting shortstop for a very long time. 

In 2022, Tatis didn’t play a single game after recovering from a motorcycle injury before an 80-game suspension.

Tatis’ absence paved the way for second-year infielder Ha-Seong Kim to become a full-time starter. Kim racked up a 5.0 WAR rating in 150 games played. 

His stellar play caused many to wonder if he would stay at shortstop, forcing Tatis to the outfield. In an effort to keep Jr. healthy, moving him to the outfield seemed like a plausible solution.

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The signing of Bogaerts all but ended any discussion of keeping the young superstar in the infield. 

In February, Jake Cronenworth joked about his GM’s tendencies, “I guess AJ just likes shortstops,” Cronenworth said.

The fourth-year infielder and former shortstop himself has spent the last two seasons primarily at second base but is entering 2023 as the Padres’ primary first baseman, with Kim sliding over to second base. 

Whether or not it is something Preller admits being a focus, the team certainly does have several options at shortstop. Manny Machado, Tatis, Bogaerts, Kim, and Cronenworth have all had significant playing time at the position at one moment or another. 

Machado, who came to the Padres after splitting time between shortstop and third base for most of his career, was excited about playing with another shortstop.

“The more the merrier,” Machado said.

Even catcher Austin Nola came up through the minor leagues at short. 

Having players at one of the most athletic positions on the field opens up the opportunity for a lot of flexibility and allows guys to move around the field. 

Bogaerts is coming off his best season defensively in his career, including five defensive runs saved. His career .979 fielding percentage ranks eighth among all active shortstops. 

Fun Facts

  • Xander’s 1,410 hits rank 29th among active players. With likely eleven years to go in his career, he would need to average 144.55 hits per season to reach the 3,000 milestone.
  • Bogaerts keeps a large container of animal crackers with him or in his locker at all times.
  • In order to keep loose, “Bogey” enjoys warming up with a soccer ball before games.
  • When he is not playing baseball, Bogaerts finds comfort in playing video games on his Play Station or watching soccer.
  • Xander has a twin brother named Jair.
  • In 2011, after winning the gold medal in the Baseball World Cup, Bogaerts was inducted into the Knights Order of Orange-Nassau by the Governor of Aruba. He was the 5th player ever from the country to play in the MLB, one of which was former Padre Gene Kingsale.
  • Bogaerts speaks four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento, the latter two being Aruba’s official languages.

Other #2’s

Bogaerts will become the 29th player in franchise history to wear #2. Others include Tony Fernandez, Everth Cabrera, and Trent Grisham.

Fernandez played two seasons with the Padres (1991-1992). The shortstop played 17 years in the big leagues, going to five All Star games and winning four Gold Gloves. He hit .288 with 94 home runs and 246 stolen bases in his career. He also had 92 triples, including a Major league leading 17 three-baggers in 1990.

Cabrera spent six seasons (2009-2014) with the Friars hitting .248 with 138 stolen bases. Like Fernandez and Bogaerts, the 2013 All Star Cabrera also played shortstop.

After wearing #2 his first three seasons with the Padres, Grisham will be wearing #1 while patrolling centerfield in 2023. The two-time Gold Glover is looking to capitalize off a postseason in which he hit three home runs.

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