For the second time in the last 10 days, the Red Sox have given out a nine-figure contract extension to a player who had been hurtling toward free agency this November.
In the waning days of spring training, Chris Sale was the beneficiary of a five-year, $145-million deal. On Monday, the Red Sox made official their six-year, $120-million extension for shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Some thoughts on the deal:
1. The left side of the infield is locked down, joining the rotation as areas the Red Sox have solidified. But at a price.
Sale's deal means every starter except Rick Porcello is under control for a minimum of three more seasons, with Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi under contract for at least the next four years.
It's the same for the left side of the infield. Third baseman Rafael Devers is under control through 2022 and Bogaerts, who has an opt-out after 2022, could conceivably be under control through 2026 if he vests with 525 at-bats in 2025.
That kind of continuity is good, especially for talented young players like Devers, who has yet to fully hit his stride at 22, and Bogaerts, just now entering his prime.
The right side of the infield is far less accounted for. Dustin Pedroia has a contract for this season and two more years after this one, but given his physical issues and the state of his surgically-recovered left knee, that might be a good thing. Meanwhile, first base is rather temporary for now -- both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce can be free agents after the current season.
The Sox could fill first internally, choosing from Michael Chavis, Sam Travis and perhaps even Bobby Dalbec, the latter of whom was drafted as a third baseman but is currently blocked at his own position by Devers.
Of some concern: assuming for the moment that J.D. Martinez doesn't exercise an opt-out this fall the Sox have just shy of $135 million committed to five players already for 2020: David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Pedroia, Martinez and Bogaerts.
Now add in — rounding off for mathematical purposes here -- approximately $30 million for Mookie Betts and his final year of salary arbitration and the Sox are at $164.95 million for six players, or, less than a quarter of their 25-man roster.
2. Don't underestimate the impact of Alex Cora in retaining players.
Typically, Scott Boras' clients don't sign away their right to hit the free agent market. Boras advises them -- not incorrectly -- they retain more leverage when they allow as many as 29 others teams to get into the bidding. That's perfectly reasonable, and an obvious matter of supply and demand.
The fact that Bogaerts directed Boras to get a deal done -- and done early -- speaks volumes. Bogaerts mentioned the Sox winning tradition -- they've won two World Series in his first six years and won the division on two other occasions -- as a big motivating factor.
"My teammates know how much I love winning,'' said Bogaerts at the press conference to announce his signing, "regardless of it’s cards, baseball, dominoes, I don’t care. I just enjoy winning. They know that about me and I think this was a nice place to play.”
Part of the "nice place to play'' element, however, is the relationship he enjoys with Cora. It's no secret Bogaerts didn't mesh as well with former manager John Farrell. But as a former middle infielder, Cora made Bogaerts one of his first-year projects -- insisting Bogaerts could improve defensively, then working with him to achieve that, while also recognizing the room for offensive upside by taking a more aggressive approach at the plate.
Sale, too, was partly motivated by Cora. Sale appreciates that Cora has made preserving the health and well-being of the staff as a true priority of the organization. That comfort level -- coupled with the affection he has for his teammates and the proximity of his Naples home to the team's spring training base in nearby Fort Myers -- was part of the reason Sale stayed.
And as an added bonus, the Sox got team discounts on both players, making them sensible deals for the club.
3. The pay window is closed for now.
When Sale signed, Dave Dombrowski noted that it was his belief that shutting off contract negotiations by Opening Day was an unofficial team policy, so as to ward off distractions. As it happened, the Bogaerts talks went a few days beyond, but that was mostly due to finalizing the deal and getting a physical done; the framework for the deal was in place when the Sox began the season in Seattle.
But that's it. Dombrowski told the Boston Herald Monday that, "I am pretty certain (the Sox are done with contract talks). We have no ongoing conversations."
That means four other potential free agents -- Moreland, Pearce, Brock Holt and Rick Porcello -- will have to wait until after the season to work out possible deals to remain.
Moreland and Pearce, as players in their mid-30s, could be viewed as expendable and Holt, while a valuable member of the roster thanks to his versatility, is not an everyday player.
But Porcello has been left out. He told WEEI.com that he was interested in engaging in talks to remain with the Sox during the spring, but that the Sox never countered with any proposal.
Given the money invested in Sale, Price and Eovaldi in the rotation -- Rodriguez is year-to-year as an arbitration-eligible -- the Sox might want a younger pitcher to step into the staff for 2020, or, at the very least, find themselves a less expensive veteran on a short-term commitment.