Red Sox Fine With Current Outfield, Xander Bogaerts Not Moving; J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers Want to Stay: 7 Early Takeaways From Spring Training

Red Sox

Spring Training is finally under way after the MLB agreed to a new deal for the 2022 season, which ended the lockout. The Boston Red Sox begin exhibition games tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Twins, which will begin a 19-game regionalized schedule. Here are seven early takeaways from Red Sox Spring Training, including Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, vaccinations, and more.

Bogaerts not willing to move from shortstop

Bogaerts does not have interest in moving from shortstop.

“I’m a shortstop, man. That’s where I’ve played my whole career and obviously a position I take a lot of pride in,” said Bogaerts. “I love being there.”

Bogaerts, 29, has been Boston’s shortstop since 2014; but with more and more rumors that the Sox could be moving on from Bogaerts and or Boston could be signing a big-name like Carlos Correa — forcing Bogaerts to move over to third or second — the slugger is starting to become seemingly frustrated.

“It’s like sometimes I don’t even know if I’m on the team,” Bogaerts said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m here?’ But it’s what you do. You guys have got stories to write and you guys have more info on that type of stuff than us as players have. It’s out of my control. I really can’t do much about it.

“But sometimes you see it and you’re like, ‘Hey, I exist — I’m here.’ It is what it is.”

Bogaerts has an opt-out after this season in his six-year deal that he signed in 2018, and reports suggest that he is planning on opting out. But, Bogaerts does love being in Boston.

“We don’t have much time if any of that’s going to happen,” he said, when asked if an extension is going to happen. “Obviously, I love being here. Everyone knows it. I think that’s pretty clear.”

Red Sox fine with current outfield, despite not having Hunter Renfroe

It seemed like the Red Sox were going to add to their outfield after the Hunter Renfroe trade that gave the Sox Jackie Bradley Jr. and multiple prospects in return, but Boston seems content with their current situation.

“I mean, we’re good where we’re at,” manager Alex Cora said. “I think defensively if we go Enrique (Kiké Hernandez) in center and Jackie in right, that’s pretty solid. And obviously, Alex (Verdugo) did an outstanding job in left field. But we’re looking. We’re trying to improve. And we’ll see where we go.”

Bradley Jr.’s struggles in 2021 are glaring, making the outfield a bit of a concern. Bradley Jr. hit just .163 with a 35 wRC+ to go along with six homers through 134 games with the Brewers in 2021.

“We’ve got a few ideas,” said Cora, when talking about how they can improve Bradley Jr. in 2022 following a rough 2021 season. “Obviously one of the things we always talk about is for him to drive the ball to left-center (field). Last year was last year. He understands his situation and he’s willing to work. With Jackie, there’s never a concern about him physically. You look at him. He actually looks strong and younger.”

Boston has talked about adding a right-handed bat, which could mean Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, a potential suitor.

Sox have payroll flexibility

The Red Sox are projected to be in the range of $210M as a team payroll currently, but the Sox are still looking to add. The threshold is at $230M this season in the new CBA.

“The last time Chaim talked to you guys, he talked about trying to get a right-handed bat and some bullpen help,” Cora said the other day. “It’s been relentless the last two days. That’s why I took a flight from Puerto Rico at 6 in the morning. So I could be here. And on the way here and alligator alley, just make phone calls not only to Peter Gammons but to other people.

“We all know what we need,” continued Cora. “I think the whole industry knows where we’re at. We’re just trying to get better. We’ve got some interesting guys that are here, non-roster invitees that provide us depth in the infield. And we’ve got some interesting guys, too, that can play multiple positions. And we like versatility. But we’re still working. The whole group up there, they’ve been working for the last two days and we know we can improve in the upcoming days.”

Boston has already added southpaw relievers Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm to their bullpen. Bloom talks about how payroll flexibility helps the Sox — a team that has been over the threshold and has lost a first-round pick before.

“It opens more options for us maybe than we’ve been working with the last couple of years,” Bloom said. “I don’t think we should worry about the size or the Q-factor or the splashiness of the move. We should be trying to use all our resources to be as great as we can every year whatever that means. But especially looking ahead, the more flexibility you have, the more options you can consider. That is part of why that flexibility is important. Because it does give you access to the whole menu.”

The Sox got under the threshold in 2020 after they traded away Mookie Betts and David Price.

“You can talk about payroll flexibility, future flexibility all we want. Sometimes that flexibility comes because you’ve got some players who are really good players and key contributors whose contract might also be expiring,” Bloom said. “So that’s something we have to be mindful of, too. We do look at all that stuff. You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself either. But it’s certainly something we’re very aware of.”

Devers wants to stay, but extension talks have not begun

While Devers is not near the six-year service mark to be eligible for free agency, locking up the young phenom to a massive extension wouldn’t be bad idea for Boston to do.

“We haven’t talked about that but obviously this is a great place to play baseball in,” Devers said through his translator. “This is the Boston Red Sox. But I’m really not focused on that right now. Just focused on playing the season and see where it goes from there.”

Devers would like to stay with the Red Sox for the rest of his career, calling Boston a ‘home.’

“Of course,” Devers said, when asked if he’d be interested in spending the entirety of his career with the Sox. “Obviously this is the team that gave me the chance to be in the big leagues. I’m so comfortable here with the staff from the minor leagues all the way up to the major leagues. So this feels like home. Obviously, I would love to play here.”

Martinez wants to stay in Boston

Martinez opted in to the last year of his five-year deal he signed before the 2018 season, and he doesn’t want it to be the last deal he’s made with the Sox.

“I think I made the right decision personally. I’m excited to be here,” Martinez said. “I think this team has a chance to win again and that’s what I want to do. I want to win. I’m starting to go towards later on in my career and trying to win the most is the most fun.”

The 34-year-old, who turns 35 in August, talked about him being rather hard on himself.

“When I first came here, everybody asked, ‘Are you going to be able to handle it? The media, the fans, and everything?’ And I was like, ‘There’s nobody harder on myself than me.’ If they’re writing how bad I am, I’m at home pissed off about how bad I am.”

Martinez will be a free agent this offseason, barring the Sox signing him to an extension before free agency opens.

“My mindset is that I’m going to be a free agent,” Martinez said. “There’s nothing I can do. It’s not going to change the way I prepare or anything, whether I was a free agent or whether I had another five years left on my contract.”

Vaccinations going up

The Red Sox did not meet the 85% vacccination threshold as a team in 2021, which would have had certain COVID restrictions taken off the team. But, while a number of players are still not vaccinated, Boston’s vaccination numbers are going up.

Christian Arroyo was one of Boston’s recent vaccinations. “It was the right thing (to get the vaccine),” Arroyo told The Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam.

Bogaerts also said that he is vaccinated, as there were conflicting reports on whether or not he was vaccinated or not. “Yeah I am, so get that out there,” Bogaerts said, when asked if he was.

Sam Kennedy says the vaccination numbers of the Sox are trending upwards.

“I do know a few guys who were previously unvaccinated are now vaccinated,” Boston’s President/CEO Sam Kennedy said. “It’s a good trend.”

Unlike last season, players being unvaccinated could hurt the Sox. Unvaccinated players are not able to travel with the team to Toronto, as the Blue Jays will return home this season after spending two seasons in the United States.

Chris Sale is the most notable player that openly admitted last season that he is not vaccinated.

All-Star Game in Boston?

The Red Sox want an All-Star Game in Boston.

“We are lobbying hard at the Major League Baseball level,” Kennedy said. “I think we’re finally coming up in the rotation at some point here. 1999 was amazing. That was just an incredible night so we’d love to have the All-Star Game back.”

As Kennedy noted, the Sox last hosted an All-Star game back in 1999. The nearest open slot for the All-Star Game is in 2025 and in 2027 — 2026 will be at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

“ASAP,” he said. “When it’s available when it works for Major League Baseball, we’d love to be considered.”

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