Xander Bogaerts knows the end of his MLB career at shortstop is imminent. The notion came up in contract negotiations with the San Diego Padres last winter. The Athletic's Dennis Lin reported (paid subscription news service) that team management was willing to give Bogaerts the 2023 season at shortstop. But a serious conversation about a possible position switch is needed this offseason.
The Friars made a huge splash in free agency last year. Bogaerts agreed to an 11-year, $280 million deal with the Padres, and expectations were high for the 2023 season. But the team could never meet those lofty goals.
San Diego Padres infield lineup needs revamping
Last season confirmed the current makeup of the Friars are not playoff contenders. Team President of Baseball Operations and General Manager A.J. Preller will need to tweak the lineup. And the first order of business is revamping the look of the infield. The unit's fielding analytics scream for a change.
Preller knows this. The Friar Faithful knows it. And Bogaerts has to realize that it is time to be moved off of shortstop. Unfortunately, the problem may be he still loves playing the position.
Defensively, the four-time All-Star has not looked elite. It is becoming increasingly clear that Bogaerts’ range at short is limited. A move to first base allows him to remain an integral part of the infield for the foreseeable future.
Statistically, Bogaerts was an efficient shortstop last season. He committed only eight errors, but his fielding chances (543) were less than the year before (581). Also, Bogaerts posted a minus-4 defensive runs saved for the season. All were his lowest fielding numbers since 2020.
Is Xander Bogaerts a first baseman?
Granted, Bogaerts has little experience playing any position (50 games at third base in 2014) not named shortstop in the majors. He has no experience playing on the right side of the infield. However, an announcement of a position change will help with the transition over the winter.
The more repetitions taken at first in his offseason workouts will help Bogaerts make a smooth transition in spring training. The hands are still there to field every ball hit at him. Now, the range off the bag is more suitable for his current defensive skill set.
Friars have in-house shortstop candidates
The Padres have two talented in-house shortstop candidates on the 40-man roster. Fernando Tatis Jr. has made a smooth transition to the outfield. Ha-Seong Kim was the primary shortstop in 2022 (125 games) and moved over to second base to make room for Bogaerts last season. But both players would not rule out returning to their former position.
How good are they with the glove? Both Tatis Jr. and Kim are Gold Glove finalists at their new positions. Arguably, Kim is the team’s best defensive shortstop. His range allows him to be flawless in fielding grounders in the hole between third and short, and no major league shortstop has a stronger arm than Tatis Jr.
The transition to another position comes with hard work, and Bogaerts has a chance to provide some stability at first base. It has been missing since the early days of the Eric Hosmer regime.
2024 is the perfect opportunity to show his worth to the Padres.