Padres manager Mike Shildt told members of the media today that Xander Bogaerts will be moving from shortstop to second base, with Dennis Lin of The Athletic among those to relay the news. Ha-Seong Kim will cross the bag in the other direction to take over the shortstop position.
It was just a little over a year ago that the Padres signed Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280MM contract. At the time, it was a bit of a puzzling fit on the club’s roster. Fernando Tatis Jr. was supposed to be the franchise shortstop once upon a time. In February of 2021, he and the Friars agreed to a historic 14-year, $340MM extension to keep him on the club for the bulk of his career. He ended up missing the 2022 season both due to injuries and a PED suspension, but he was expected back early in 2023. While he was out, Kim provided excellent glovework at the position.
Going into 2023, there was a bit of uncertainty. Tatis was coming off an entirely missed season and the club was thinking about moving him to the outfield. But even if that scenario, they still had Kim to cover short. It wasn’t really expected that they would head into the offseason looking for a mega deal but they landed Bogaerts nonetheless.
Bogaerts’ first year in San Diego resulted in fairly typical offensive production for him. He hit 19 home runs and slashed .285/.350/.440 for a wRC+ of 120. Defensively, Outs Above Average gave him a positive grade of +3 but Defensive Runs Saved had him at -4. He has long been considered a candidate to move off of shortstop, even as a prospect, and it seems the time has now come. For his career, his tallies at short are -31 OAA and -54 DRS.
In the short term, the move is probably best for the 2024 version of the Padres, as Kim is excellent with the glove. He has played 1,505 1/3 innings at short in the majors, just over a full season’s worth. In that time, he’s tallied 22 DRS and 7 OAA. Having him at short and Bogaerts at second should give the club a great middle infield, as even mediocre shortstops often provide solid defense on the other side of the bag.
But taking the wide view, the decision making from the Padres becomes questionable. Twice now in recent years they have given around $300MM to a shortstop on a deal longer than a decade, and now neither will be playing short. Tatis, who has now been moved to right field, is under contract through 2034 and Bogaerts through 2033. Kim is set to become a free agent after 2024, as his deal has a mutual option for 2025 and those provisions are almost never triggered by both parties.
Assuming Kim reaches free agency a year from now, the club will then be looking for a solution at short for 2025 and beyond. They could always move Bogaerts again but he’ll be 32 years old by then and his abilities at that position will only be trending downwards with age. One of the club’s top prospects, Jackson Merrill, is a shortstop who reached Double-A last year. He could perhaps be a solution at that spot down the road but he is reportedly coming into camp as an outfielder, with the club trying to get creative in covering the spots vacated by trading Juan Soto and Trent Grisham. He could move back to short in 2025 but that might be a bit tricky if he spends this year in the outfield with the big league club instead of getting reps in Triple-A.
The Soto/Grisham deal was necessary because the club is paring back spending this winter. That’s partially a result of their TV deal with Diamond Sports Group falling apart but also connected to their extreme aggression in recent years, which includes giving a massive deal to a shortstop they didn’t really need.