Late last night, All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million deal with the San Diego Padres. The endgame of Bogaerts leaving Boston because ownership wouldn't pony up the dough has felt inevitable for Red Sox fans after seeing the way the team has treated its homegrown talent in recent years, the most obvious example being the trade of Mookie Betts. Loyal readers of the blog know that I am a Red Sox fan and have pretty much only used this space to criticize John Henry's mandates, so I was locked and loaded for this moment. I was ready to unload another year's worth of frustrations about a big-market team trying to penny-pinch so they can turn a profit.
But man. This deal? It's hard to get upset about it.
It should never have gotten here, of course. Bogaerts was very open about the fact that he didn't want to leave for years leading up to this moment. Chaim Bloom decided the best way to ensure the team gets a good deal was to wait until Bogaerts actually hit free agency to begin negotiating in earnest, much like the team's rivals in the Bronx. Unlike that team in the Bronx, the Red Sox did not up the ante when Bogaerts came through with another good season that drove his price tag up instead of down. And there was always the risk of this happening-- that someone would throw an unthinkable offer to Bogaerts that the team would not match.
It all feels reminiscent of a similar situation in Boston with a beloved free agent from a few years ago-- that of Al Horford.
Horford, like Bogaerts, was a fan favorite and crucial cog in any championship hopes for the team. Horford loved Boston and the city loved him back. When he hit free agency, the possibility of him leaving seemed nonexistent. The Celtics would give him a fair deal and everyone would be happy. Then the Sixers swooped in and offered the then-33-year-old a $100 million contract. Even faced with the possibility of leaving a city he called home and a team that appreciated his talents more than others, how could Horford say no to that money?
The comparison isn't perfect. Bogaerts has more years left in his prime than Horford did. Horford wasn't a homegrown talent like Bogaerts. The Celtics to that point did not have a reputation for refusing to pay guys that came up in their system because ownership didn't feel they were worth the money.
It was sad when Horford left. It is sad now with Bogaerts gone. Nobody can or should blame them for taking the bag when presented. It is difficult to reasonably feel upset with ownership for not offering a similar deal.
We Red Sox faithful can rage all we want about ownership's definition of best practices and how it's lost the fanbase two beloved stars who helped bring the city one championship and surely could've done it again if they were paid what they deserved to stick around. But in this instance, in this deal, it's hard to get all that mad.