Baltimore Orioles: The Case for Signing Xander Bogaerts

Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) jumps over Baltimore Orioles second baseman Rougned Odor (12) during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) jumps over Baltimore Orioles second baseman Rougned Odor (12) during the ninth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orioles could sign an elite shortstop in Xander Bogaerts.

The Baltimore Orioles will be active on the free agent market this winter, and Xander Bogaerts could potentially be on their shopping list.  The Birds are a sleeper team to sign one of the four top shortstop free agents, and there are legitimate reasons to sign any one of them.  Carlos Correa is a natural fit, Trea Turner is an all-around stud, and Dansby Swanson is a satisfying budget option.  But Bogaerts might be more appealing to the front office as a great hitter in the AL East.

Xander Bogaerts has been an excellent hitter for much of his time in the Majors since debuting at age 20 in 2013, and he has been the leader of the Red Sox since David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia retired.  Since I live in the Boston area, I have seen more of Bogaerts’ games than almost any other baseball player.  He is the oldest of the top shortstops as a 30-year-old, and that’s because he signed an extension with Boston in 2019 before triggering an opt-out clause when the 2022 season ended.

There are some aspects of Xander’s game that fall under the uncertainty category, but the Orioles can be sure of a few crucial things: Bogaerts can really hit, he stays healthy, and he would immediately step into a leadership role in the clubhouse.  The first one is the most important part of baseball, and Bogaerts has a sneaky pleasant profile.  Despite his reputation as a free swinger, Bogaerts actually has above-average walk and strikeout rates.  He is incredibly good at checking his swing, which he does on most takes.

The X-Man makes a lot of contact and often pokes the ball around the field.  His spray chart is a sight for sore eyes and playing at Camden Yards would not change that.  Some of his home runs would turn into outs but leaving Fenway Park means that some singles and doubles off the Green Monster would become home runs, and some fly outs to right field would clear the fence in Baltimore.  He hits plenty of singles and doubles the other way and legs out a fair amount of infield hits.  Never known for his legs, Bogaerts actually has above-average speed.  He won’t cause headaches like a Turner-Cedric Mullins-Jorge Mateo trio would, but Xander can extend an inning every now and then on the bases.

Bogaerts has been an incredibly reliable player, which the Orioles surely value.  He hasn’t missed more than 30 games in a season since he became a regular in 2014, and he does not have a recurring injury to be worried about.  His production is consistent the last five years, with a narrow OPS+ range from 128 in 2020 to a career-high 139 in 2019.  His drop in home run power this year stands out, as his 2.4% HR-rate and .456 SLG were his lowest since 2017, but it did not come with a decline in offense.  Bogaerts battled for a batting title and finished with an .833 OPS while winning his fifth Silver Slugger.  Only four other players have that many Silver Sluggers, and they are all in the Hall of Fame or took steroids.  One of them wore #8 for the Orioles.

What Would the Orioles Be Getting in Xander Bogaerts

I am not saying Xander Bogaerts is Cal Ripken, but the two are quite close on the offensive side.  The other question mark surrounding Bogaerts is his defense, which the Iron Man excelled at.  Bogaerts has been a subpar shortstop since he debuted, and most evaluators expect him to move to second or third base at some point over the course of his next contract.  He has the size for third and played there for part of his rookie season, but a below-average arm pushes him to second.  Neither of those matter for now, though, since Bogaerts had by far his best defensive season in 2022.  He worked hard last offseason to improve his range and easily set career highs in OAA and DRS, earning a Gold Glove nomination for his efforts (at the expense of Mateo).

Bogaerts might have moved off short as soon as 2023, but his clear improvements bought himself a couple more years at the position.  The Orioles would comfortably slot him into the three spot on the scorecard and the six spot on the dirt.  He would be an immense offensive boost and provide lineup protection for Adley Rutschman while giving Anthony Santander more runners to drive in.  Mateo or Ramon Urias would start at second while the other moves into a super utility role and Gunnar Henderson starts at third.  The Aruban speaks four languages and helps translate coaching messages to international players.  It won’t take long for teammates to rally around him.

There is a more subtle reason why the Orioles signing Bogaerts makes some sense.  It would be a preventative measure to keep him away from the rest of the division.  The O’s have faced him many times over the years and have been a little worse for the wear.  In 156 games against the Orioles, Bogaerts has 20 home runs and a .791 OPS, which is below his career averages but still dangerous.  I have seen him burn the Birds too many times.  That .791 figure is the midpoint between a .727 OPS against the Yankees, .805 against the Blue Jays, and a division-best .846 OPS against the Rays.  His splits are nearly identical against winning teams and losing teams, so he will produce regardless of opponent.

I don’t honestly think the Orioles will sign Xander Bogaerts or even pursue him, but he is a worthy target if Mike Elias wants to make a splash.  Resigning Bogaerts is at the top of Boston’s to-do list, so poaching him from a rival might be extra motivation for the Baltimore front office.  MLB Trade Rumors is expecting a seven-year, $189M contract, while Ben Clemens of FanGraphs projects a seven-year, $217M contract.  The Orioles can certainly afford a top shortstop, the question is whether they want to.