Padres Add Xander Bogaerts, as San Diego Goes All In

The San Diego Padres were a busy team at the Winter Meetings, but failed to make a big splash until the final hours. After failing to snag either Aaron Judge and Trea Turner, the Padres added a big-name bat to its lineup. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is headed to the West Coast, in a move that doubles down on the franchise’s direction that was set in motion this past August.

Related: How Will the Re-Signing of Aaron Judge Affect the AL East?

A Look at Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts has been a member of the Red Sox for his entire professional career, before inking his new deal with San Diego. A two-time World Series champion, Bogaerts was a hitting machine for the Sox since being called up in 2013. After a satisfactory rookie campaign in 2014, the Aruba native would go on to hit at least. 288 or better in each season, sans 2017. The former Red Sox won five Silver Slugger awards in Boston, and posted seven seasons with an above-average OPS+.

Bogaerts had another solid season in 2022, winning yet another Silver Slugger and finishing in the top ten in AL MVP voting. Xander Bogaerts batted. 305 this past season in Boston, despite dips in the shortstop’s average exit velocity, launch angle, and barrels. Bogaerts’ weak contact and Topped% rates also crept up in 2022, with the former at a career high of 4.5%.

San Diego reportedly made a major offer to new Phillie Trea Turner, and were contemplating a larger deal to Aaron Judge. Neither player, though, wound up in San Diego. The Padres did, however, leave the Winter Meetings with one of the more consistent hitters in MLB over the past decade.

What it Means for San Diego

From an offensive perspective, Bogaerts is an upgrade from Ha-Seong Kim. While Kim did have the Padres’ second highest WAR (5.1) in 2022, the now-former Red Sox should provide more pop for a San Diego team that was looking for another power bat.

With this addition, the Padres’ lineup now includes Bogaerts, NL MVP finalist Manny Machado, on-base machine Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. upon the conclusion of his PED suspension. That’s an impressive group, without even mentioning a supporting cast member like Jake Cronenworth. Granted, the Padres will want more 2021-like production from Soto, whose metrics fell in 2022. Assuming a rebound, this can be a lethal lineup that should give the Dodgers a run for the NL West title.

Now, the goal of this move is not just to win a division title. San Diego came three wins away from a third World Series birth, and with a veteran lineup and strong rotation, the time is now for the Padres to win its championship. The move to pick up Xander Bogaerts, though, is a risky one, from both a near-term and long-term point of view.

In both the short-term and long-term, Bogaerts’ defensive abilities will be something to watch. Although the shortstop was in the top 15% in Outs Above Average in 2022, that figure is an outlier from Bogaerts’ career. Xander Bogaerts has traditionally been a fringe defender at short with a below-average arm. Bogaerts’ range and arm issues at short could very well be magnified further over time.

Second, the Padres now have invested $280 million to Bogaerts. Three years prior, San Diego shelled out $300 million over 10 years to Machado, in a contract that does allow the All-Star third baseman to opt out after 2023. And then there’s Tatis Jr., who was given a 14-year, $340 million deal in 2021. Two of those players are age 30 or older, but there’s another element that needs to be taken into consideration. Juan Soto, the other key piece of the Padres’ present, will be up in two seasons and will command a hefty price tag. After all, the former National did reject $440 million from Washington earlier this year. Will San Diego be able to afford Bogaerts, Machado, Tatis Jr. and a new contract for Soto?

San Diego GM A.J. Preller noted after the deal that he didn’t see the trade as a short-term rental. That may still be the case, but nonetheless, this signing pushed all of the chips in for the Padres. But if San Diego fails to win within the next two seasons, it may give Soto even more reason to test the market.

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