The Yankees are looking to solidify their roster with star-level talent as they try to make a World Series run in 2023. A consistent theme for the Bronx Bombers in these runs have been their lack of offense in decisive games, and yet the Yankees haven’t made a successful splurge for a superstar position player since acquiring Giancarlo Stanton before the 2018 season.
While bringing back Aaron Judge is the #1 priority (and for good reason), the Yankees need to supplement their roster outside of Judge. It doesn’t seem like the Yankees will be giving a $300+ million contract to Judge and then throwing nearly $300 million at another position player, and Xander Bogaerts can potentially serve as a happy medium of a perennial All-Star who won’t command $300 million on the market.
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X Gon’ Give it To Ya:
Xander Bogaerts is one of the best offensive players at his position, and he’s been a beacon of consistency in terms of OPS+ over the past five seasons.
- 2018: 135 OPS+
- 2019: 139 OPS+
- 2020: 128 OPS+
- 2021: 129 OPS+
- 2022: 131 OPS+
Bogey has won the Silver Slugger three out of those five seasons, and he hasn’t posted a sub-4 WAR season since the 2017 campaign. With his lowest Plate Appearance total (not counting the 2020 season) since 2018 is 568, and he’s never ran an OBP below .360 in that stretch as well. Offensive consistency and excellence is hard to come by at the Major League level, and it’s something that should greatly attract the Yankees F.O. While Steamer projects Bogaerts to take his first serious hit in production (122 wRC+), they still expect him to post a 4.6 fWAR, making him the 7th best shortstop in terms of projected WAR and a top 30 position player for the 2023 season.
The Yankees have lacked that offensive consistency at the shortstop position, as they have gotten a combined 91 wRC+ (17th) since the 2021 season. While they have a trio of talented infielders who can take the mantle at shortstop for the 2023 season in Cabrera, Peraza, and Volpe, the Yankees have lots of holes in their infield outside of SS. DJ LeMahieu is still a massive question mark due to the uncertainty around whether he’ll need surgery, Josh Donaldson cannot start, and Gleyber Torres could find himself traded. If the Yankees have Bogaerts, Cabrera and Peraza can play 2B/3B, or perhaps the Yankees could move Bogaerts to 2B for 2023.
There are real questions about Bogaerts at shortstop long-term, and while he posted a +5 OAA there in 2022, a large sum of his value came from being positioned up the middle shading towards 2B, so his defense will most likely take a hit with reduced shifting. The Yankees’ infield depth in the farm should be a reason for Bogaerts since, unlike most teams, the Yankees can actually move Xander off of the position early into the contract.
Yankees Need a Hitter like Xander Bogaerts:
The Yankees were a top-of-the-line offense against breaking pitches in 2022, and yet the Astros were able to quell the Yankee lineup by increasing their slider usage. Bogaerts excels at making contact, but not in the way that leads to a lot of forced contact and double plays, but in a positive way that leads to plenty of run creation. Bogaerts consistently runs strikeout rates below 20% with roughly league-average chase rates, though he’s been able to walk at an above-average rate. Bogaerts is always a strong candidate to lead his team in OBP with the combination of a great hit tool and solid walk rates, and we know just how much the team values getting on-base.
Bogaerts finished 10th in OBP in 2022 (.377), with a huge part of that being his .306 AVG (7th in MLB). A strong hit tool like the one Xander possesses is something most position players on the Yankees do not have, and players with that skill set have eluded the Yankees in the Baby Bomber era. Contact isn’t valuable for the sake of making contact, however, having a strong hit tool to pair with great power translates very well to playoff baseball.
Xander Bogaerts handles sliders extremely well, with a .341 wOBA against the pitch since 2021, and sliders see a drastic uptick in usage in “clutch” situations alongside in postseason environments. They tend to be the go-to non-fastball pitch for the pitchers due to it’s consistently great results, so Bogaerts is well-equipped to handle postseason baseball. His career 83 wRC+ in the postseason could raise red flags, but three of his five playoff runs (2013, 2016, 2017) came before his breakout season in 2018. His most reason postseason performance netted a 121 wRC+ and a .500 SLG%, with the devastating two-run blow against Gerrit Cole in the Wild Card game being one of his most memorable blasts.
Contact and power is a premium package, and with Bogaerts’ remarkable pedigree at the Major League level offensively, this would be a no-brainer addition for a Yankee lineup in need of strong hit-tool bats.
Can the Yankees Afford to Sacrifice Defense at Shortstop?
There’s no denying Xander Bogaerts is a very shaky defensive shortstop. With a career -51 DRS and -34 OAA, defense has never been his strong suit. He did post +4 DRS and +5 OAA, but I previously mentioned how his OAA splits based on positioning suggest most of that value came from when he was on the second base side of the bag, a shift that would be illegal with the new shift rules. Bogaerts is most likely going to be a below-average defender in 2023, but is this a sacrifice the Yankees can willingly make to get the offensive output they’re looking for? Well, yes.
The Yankees have two proven defenders at the shortstop position in Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza, and if Bogaerts’ struggles defensively become too much, they can always shift him to 2B. Does Bogaerts prefer SS? Absolutely, but I think he’s just as well aware of his situation as teams and fans are. He isn’t going to stick at the position long-term; and that’s quite okay. Bogaerts has proven he can be a great defensive 2B, and if the Yankees get plus defense from him at 2B later in the season with his bat, this team’s going to go very far in the postseason.
Bogaerts is objectively a poor defensive shortstop, that cannot be denied. What can be said is that despite his poor defensive play, he’s remained a top-10 SS year after year. Bogaerts would immediately become the best shortstop the Yankees have had since Derek Jeter, and that should be reason enough to want him. I believe in his ability to play strong defense when moved to 2B for Peraza/Volpe, and he also provides the flexibility to move an infield prospect for an impact player at another position of need (OF/SP) since he can anchor down that 2B spot for nearly the rest of the decade.
What Will a Contract for Xander Bogaerts Look Like?
MLB Trade Rumors and FanGraphs have both released their contract predictions for the major FAs on the market, and they’re both surprisingly low on what the total salary would be for the Aruban star. FanGraphs has Bogaerts at $168 million for six years ($28 million AAV), whereas MLB Trade Rumors has Bogaerts at $189 for seven years ($27 million AAV), both contracts the Yankees could 100% afford alongside the Judge contract. Here are the factors that I imagine are detracting from Bogaerts market in comparison to Trea Turner and Carlos Correa:
- Entering Age 30 season in 2023
- Least Likely to Stick at SS
- Comparable to Marcus Semien (7-year $175 million deal)
These are factors the Yankees can all absorb; especially since they’re loaded at shortstop internally. Age is definitely a concern here, but most free agents enter the market around this age. Assuming he gets the higher end of his projected contract ($189 million for 7 years), Bogaerts would net the return on this value with between 23-24 WAR, which would mean averaging 3.4 WAR over those 7 years. While this move isn’t the one most would expect the Yankees to make, there are connections there. It doesn’t hurt that Xander wears #2 for Derek Jeter, so maybe playing in the pinstripes could appeal to him.
The Yankees shouldn’t look at Xander Bogaerts as a fallback if they don’t sign Judge; they should acquire both. It would be trivial to allow one of the premier shortstops in the American League slip from your grasp at a price that isn’t absurd, especially with how dominant they’ve been in the American League East. Weaken your rival, get better, and start spending like you’re the New York Yankees once again.