San Diego Padres still pursuing Xander Bogaerts

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The San Diego Padres went deep in the playoffs this year and do not need to make wholesale changes in their roster. The team must make shortstop, left field, and first base decisions.

There is no shortage at shortstop.

Ha-Seong Kim filled the void left by the absence of Fernando Tatis Jr. General manager A.J. Preller will have to make tough decisions about how to deploy both Kim and Tatis Jr. However, he’s complicated the situation by continuing to show interest in Xander Bogaerts.

According to multiple reports, Preller has contacted Bogaert’s agent Scott Boras and inquired about a possible move to first base if the Padres were to sign him. The answer was an unequivocal no. Last year, he refused to move off the position if his team acquired either Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.

Bogaerts declared “I’m a shortstop, man. That’s where I’ve played my whole career and obviously a position I take a lot of pride in…I love being there.” He hasn’t budged from that declaration. In his nine years in Boston, he’s played short in 1,192 games, 53 at third, and 12 at designated hitter. The Red Sox did acquire Trevor Story but moved him to second base.

Preller’s interest in Bogaerts undoubtedly stems from the Padres’ struggles on offense.

Last year, he batted .307/.377/.458/.833 with OPS+ 131. Bogaerts hit 15 home runs and drove in 84 runs. He’s played in four All-Star games and won five Silver Sluggers from 2015 to 2022.

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Pitching and defense led the Padres to the playoffs, overcoming their feeble offensive production and lack of power. Of course, a player like Bogaerts would add to the offense. However, the price tag to re-sign him amounts to about $120 million over six years, with an average of $20 million a year. This season, San Diego ranked seventh in salary at $159,487,744 and would be wise to avoid the luxury tax threshold.

Although Bogaert excels at the plate, he’s not the second coming of Cal Ripkin Jr. at short. According to Fangraphs advanced fielding, he averages 0.9 UZR/150, -51 DRS. Ha-Seong Kim, who took over at short during Tatis Jr.’s extended absence, outplayed Bogaert defensively with a 5 UZR/150 and 10 DRS.

Obviously, the Padres must improve their overall offense. However, multiple players had down years at the plate and stand a good chance of rebounding. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth batted .239/.332/.390/.722 OPS+111 this year. In 2020, he batted .285/.354/,477/.831 OPS+129; in 2021, 266/.340/460/800 OPS 122. Trent Grisham fell off his usual production dramatically. In 2020 he batted .251/352/456 808 123 OPS+, last year, 242/377/413/740 OPS+ 106. This past year he struggled mightily, batting .184/.284/.341/.626 OPS+ 83.

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The absence of Tatis Jr.’s bat exacerbated the offensive weaknesses, but he’s due to return early next season. In just 273 games over three years, Tatis’ Jr. has batted .292/369/596/965 OPS+ 160. In the power department, he’s also hit 81 home runs.

If the prospect of Tatis Jr.’s return doesn’t convince Preller to take Xander Bogaerts off his list of potential additions, the specter of the Competitive Balance Tax and dealing with agent Scott Boras should. The uber agent got the better of Preller and convinced him to sign first baseman Eric Hosmer to a lengthy, unnecessary, and expensive contract.

Preller needs to turn his attention from Xander Bogaerts to areas of need, including starting pitching.

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