BOSTON -- The Red Sox are not thinking about locking up 21-year-old shortstop/third baseman Xander Bogaerts to a long-term contract, general manager Ben Cherington confirmed earlier this month.
Not now, at least. One impressive season, though, and opinions could quickly change.
Developing and keeping talent has been the Red Sox's specialty since the beginning of the millennium. From 2008-11, the club extended four of its promising young stars (Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz ) to contracts that would give the players a bonus over what they would've likely made in arbitration while simultaneously giving the Red Sox extra years of service time at a reasonable price.
That would be the next step for Bogaerts, who hit .296 with a .412 on-base percentage this postseason. He just has to show that he can succeed over a full season first.
"I think in our situation, the ones we've done that would fit in that category -- Pedroia and Youkilis, Buchholz, Lester; guys like that -- there's been an established performance track record," said Cherington. "We've known them all as individuals, come to trust who they are, as far as how they work, et cetera. That gives [the team] comfort in extending a guarantee past where you absolutely have to, because you can choose to go a year at a time if you want to."
The Red Sox went year to year with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon, each of whom was able to pursue free agency immediately following his final year under contract. Papelbon signed with the Phillies for four years and $50 million; over the years, the Red Sox have tried to avoid big contracts for relievers. Ellsbury is still exploring his options.
Youkilis was traded after injuries put a damper on his steady career, though it could still be argued that he more than earned the four-year contract extension, reportedly worth $41.25 million, that he signed in 2009. Youkilis didn't start declining until 2011, and by that point, he had already provided above-salary value.
Pedroia, Lester and Buchholz have been centerpieces while playing under team-friendly contracts. Lester was the third-highest-paid starting pitcher on the Red Sox in 2013, though he pitched the opening game of each postseason series. Buchholz was on his way to American League Cy Young Award candidacy before he hit the disabled list in June with bursitis in his right shoulder. Pedroia won his third Rawlings AL Gold Glove Award while finishing seventh in AL MVP balloting.
The common thread, though, is that all four players weren't signed to contract extensions until they had played at least one full season.
Cherington said that negotiations over an extension for Bogaerts wouldn't happen until late in the offseason anyway, though it's unlikely a deal with the infielder would be considered until next offseason.
Should Bogaerts enjoy a successful 2014 season at shortstop, his value to the team could be even higher. Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, two other shortstops who were signed as international free agents at age 16, as Bogaerts was, both signed contract extensions with their respective clubs to remain under team control beyond their arbitration years, and both deals paid dividends.
Early-career contract extensions often favor teams financially, while also giving players a salary bump and security while adjusting to the Major Leagues.
"Once you get into conversation," Cherington said, "those contracts are always some sort of risk-sharing arrangement where the player is given a guarantee, security and will perhaps compromise a little bit on the upside."
Bogaerts, who wouldn't be eligible for arbitration until 2017 and free agency until '20, may have no interest in discussing an extension. But if he does, and he has a strong '14 season, a match would make sense.
"We're not considering that right now with anyone but certainly wouldn't rule it out," Cherington said.