'More the merrier': Xander joins stacked Padres

December 10th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres wrapped up Winter Meetings week with a Friday afternoon press conference at Petco Park, where they introduced the newest Padre to the city of San Diego.

Or should we say ... Xan Diego.

"I'm looking forward," said Xander Bogaerts, fresh off signing his 11-year, $280 million pact with the Padres, "to playing here for the rest of my career."

The Padres entered the offseason with a host of shortstops already on their roster. And yet there was Bogaerts, grinning ear to ear as he donned a fresh No. 2 Padres jersey in the Petco Park auditorium.

Never have the Padres' win-now intentions been clearer. They already had an infield featuring Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth. Then they went out and signed Bogaerts, a four-time All-Star and two-time World Series winner.

"It's about good players," said Padres manager Bob Melvin. "In my conversations with the guys on our team, they were all really supportive of it. The more the merrier, like [Machado] was saying. It's just good players coming in here. We'll figure it out."

The Padres haven’t formally laid out their defensive plans, preferring to wait until after the offseason to finalize any positional changes. But Bogaerts will begin his tenure in San Diego at shortstop, general manager A.J. Preller acknowledged on Friday.

Bogaerts' arrival is expected to start a string of dominoes, in which Kim will likely slide to second base and Cronenworth to first. When Tatis returns from his suspension in mid-April, he seems destined to move to the outfield -- perhaps right field, with Juan Soto moving to left.

It's quite a shakeup. But Bogaerts, 30, is one of the most respected clubhouse presences in the league, and team officials expect the transition to be seamless. Because this is Xander Bogaerts -- owner of 1,410 hits and a .292 batting average across 10 seasons in the big leagues.

"I think I'll fit in great," Bogaerts said. "The more position players you have of high caliber, high talent ... the better. Just as players, we put our egos at the door and compete for one goal: We're just trying to get a championship."

Bogaerts would know a thing or two about that, having won World Series with Boston in 2013 and '18. He also watched intently during the Padres’ 2022 playoff run -- so intently that he recalled specific moments and games. He was particularly moved seeing the city of San Diego respond after the Padres' dramatic upset of the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

"This team really wants to win, and you can see how close it is," Bogaerts said. "Especially watching the games last year ... seeing the fans and how electric it was."

Now Bogaerts enters the fray, locked up in San Diego for the next 11 years. His contract features no opt-outs and a no-trade clause. He intends to be a Padre for life.

Externally, some have viewed Bogaerts' arrival as insurance -- perhaps a hedge in case Machado was to opt out of his contract after next season or Soto was to walk after the 2024 season. The Padres don't view it that way.

"Elite players, they want to be in a spot where they're happy and they have the ability to win," Preller said. "The conversation with Manny, a few nights ago, he said: 'The more the merrier.' He's looking to win a championship. He knows he can't do it alone.

"From our standpoint, just having a lot of really talented players makes it an even more attractive situation for those guys as they get to their decisions."

The Padres have certainly proven they’re willing to spend. They were perhaps the most aggressive team at this week’s hometown Winter Meetings. San Diego was a suitor for both Trea Turner and Aaron Judge. Bogaerts, however, wasn’t necessarily third choice.

Preller began discussions with Scott Boras, Bogaerts' agent, in late November. He met with Bogaerts extensively in Newport, Calif., last weekend, before either Turner or Judge had settled on their destinations.

On Wednesday evening, the two sides reached an agreement. On Friday, Bogaerts inked the third-richest contract in franchise history -- behind only those of Tatis and Machado. It’s only the third free-agent signing in the sport’s history of at least 11 years -- joined by the deals signed by Bryce Harper and Turner in Philadelphia.

Some have wondered where the Padres have found the financial might to be such major players in the market. Their budget has increased exponentially over the past decade -- to which chairman Peter Seidler responded, “I’m financially trained, I have a budget in mind up there somewhere, and I think budgets get better when you win world championships.”

"This is a city that's headed toward its first world championship ever," Seidler added. "We're doing everything we can to make that a reality. Then, one of these years, hopefully soon, the baseball gods, I believe, are going to smile on this beautiful city."