OAKLAND -- When Alex Cora got the call in his Seattle hotel room Thursday night, it probably caught the Red Sox manager a bit off guard.
Why not? That was certainly the case when his boss learned of the news that Xander Bogaerts had agreed to a six-year, $120 million contract extension.
"I was not by any means thinking it was going to happen," admitted Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "Today when I was recollecting, I was riding with Eddie (Romero) to the ballpark, I said, ‘When we had the Chris Sale press conference, I did not think we were going to get this deal done.’ ... We wanted him the whole time. But I would say very strongly it was Bogey’s desire to be here."
This press conference that took place in the decay of the home of the A's never seemed like a logical endgame. Bogaerts was a Scott Boras client. Those guys almost always go to free agency. And as uncertain as the market may be, this was still a 26-year-old who was in line to represent the top tier of next offseason's free agent class. Cora knew how it worked, as did Dombrowski.
"Only a year away, Scott usually isn’t very open to having his guys sign," the Sox baseball boss said. "Usually when it happens, my experience with Scott’s clients is that it’s driven by the player. They stand up and they say, ‘I want to get it done.’ Doesn't mean it’s going to get it done."
But it did get done. And this is how and why ...
Almost every offseason the routine when Boras emerged at the GM or winter meetings included Boston media members asking about a Bogaerts' extension. But as time ticked by, such queries seemed more and more pointless. Or so we thought.
"They had made some proposals," said Bogaerts' agent of his client's arbitration years. "But the thing about it for me was I wanted to make sure Boston knew where we thought Xander was going to go offensively. Last year kind of established for us. We were kind of able to say this is what he’s capable of. It allowed us to put a range where he would sit knowing he had those kind of numbers. ... When he had the season last year I said to myself I thought he had a chance to get something done in the range he belonged."
OK. So Bogaerts put up the kind of numbers in 2018 that would allow for a different kind of financial conversation. But that would have seemed to be pricing the shortstop out of an extension even more than before. This past December, however, the tone started to change a bit. Bogaerts had clearly sent the message to his representatives that he wanted to prioritize sticking around with the Red Sox as long as something could get done before the start of the regular season.
Perhaps some of the motivation involved an uneasiness involving how baseball's free agency has been shaking out. Maybe in that respect, it was the right place at the right time for the shortstop so many thought would be a lock to hit the open market.
Still, as serendipitous as the landscape had become to getting a deal done this was going to come right down to the wire.
The Red Sox could keep their shortstop at a reasonable rate. But only one condition: Bogaerts got to have another go-round with this free agency thing in three years.
"The real key of all of this was trying to finally get the opt-out involved where he can get a chance to look at the team a few years down the road," Boras explained. "Plus he’s so young. He’s going to be a 29-year-old free agent. Ninety percent of the free agents are 30 or above. He will be 29 because he’s so young.
"He was saying to me (he wanted to stay) all along. I kept on saying, ‘Xander we can’t move that to where we put you there in seven years because you’re going to end up in a time-frame at 33, 34. We want you to have a look at the market prior to that.’ Then we had to look at the AAV part of it. Getting those things integrated into it and finally with the help of Tom and John and such, I said, ‘Look, if you guys can work on the opt-out thing I think I can help you because this is one of those rare instances you have a guy where you kind of have an ability to forecast what his evaluations are.’ For shortstops to hit 20 home run is pretty rare. Will he be a 30 home run guy? You kind of do the calculus of where he’s going on the OPS and the metrics and you look at all the other things.
"He had a great season last year. You’re able to get some clarity as to where the player is going performance-wise. But the real thing was to put him in a situation where they get some assurance as to how they handle their middle infield, which is a bigger problem in today’s game. You may have some corner guys with things you can do, but for them it was something of a priority. I think that drove them from a standpoint where it was something they wanted to get clarity on. And from Xander’s point of view, he loves Boston and certainly wanted to continue with this group of players. But I said, ‘Three or four years from now there are some real decisions to be made on this team. We’ll have to take a look then.’ Once we were able to answer those two things for him he was like, ‘I can do that or I can do that.’
"We finally agreed (the opt-out) would be put in the contract and that allowed us to go forward."
Right place. Right time. All things involved, seemingly the right move ... for all involved.