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Two more extension candidates for the 2015 offseason

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When you have young players as good as Xander Bogaerts and Rougned Odor, you've gotta lock that down.

Earlier this week, my esteemed colleague Matt Goldman put together a list of players who really deserve contract extensions from their teams this offseason. It's a good list. You should read it. But today, I want to highlight a couple of other players who he did not, and who should absolutely be signed to long term deals before they turn into absolute monsters for their respective clubs.

Mired in what will be another last place finish in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox have had very few beacons in the dark to which to pin their hopes. And indeed, their attempts to turn jobs over to young players like Blake Swihart, Rusney Castillo, and Jackie Bradley have gone about as poorly as they could have. One success, however, through all of this, is Xander Bogaerts. The 22 year old shortstop in the middle of his second full season in the majors has hit .314/.341/.409 while providing plus defense. That's fine work for any shortstop, and indeed Bogaerts has been the most valuable player at the position in the American League thus far, though that will undoubtedly change as Carlos Correa accumulates more playing time, worth somewhere around three wins above replacement.

Given that Bogearts will have four more years under team control, through his age 26 season, the Red Sox may not feel any urgency to lock up their burgeoning star. And certainly, they have the deep pockets to pay him the going rate when the time comes if they want to and if he's amenable. But the Sox have the ability to set Bogaerts up for life right now in exchange for extra years of control, and they should absolutely take it. After all, he's in some pretty amazing company. Here's a list of all of the shortstops, 22 years old or younger since 1947 who posted an OPS+ over 100:

Player

Year

Age

Tm

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

Alex Rodriguez

1996

20

SEA

.358

.414

.631

.045

161

Cal Ripken

1983

22

BAL

.318

.371

.517

.888

144

Jim Fregosi

1964

22

LAA

.277

.369

.463

.833

141

Alex Rodriguez

1998

22

SEA

.310

.360

.560

.919

136

Alex Rodriguez

1997

21

SEA

.300

.350

.496

.846

120

Wil Cordero

1994

22

MON

.294

.363

.489

.853

119

Hanley Ramirez

2006

22

FLA

.292

.353

.480

.833

116

Cal Ripken

1982

21

BAL

.264

.317

.475

.792

115

Chris Speier

1972

22

SFG

.269

.361

.400

.761

115

Jim Fregosi

1963

21

LAA

.287

.325

.422

.748

114

Alan Trammell

1980

22

DET

.300

.376

.404

.779

113

Starlin Castro

2011

21

CHC

.307

.341

.432

.773

111

Ron Hansen

1960

22

BAL

.255

.342

.440

.781

111

Robin Yount

1978

22

MIL

.293

.323

.428

.752

110

Garry Templeton

1977

21

STL

.322

.336

.449

.786

110

Troy Tulowitzki

2007

22

COL

.291

.359

.479

.838

109

Xander Bogaerts

2015

22

BOS

.314

.341

.409

.749

106

Starlin Castro

2012

22

CHC

.283

.323

.430

.753

102

Harvey Kuenn

1953

22

DET

.308

.356

.386

.742

102

Derek Jeter

1996

22

NYY

.314

.370

.430

.800

101

Starlin Castro

2010

20

CHC

.300

.347

.408

.755

100

That's 21 individual seasons by a total of 15 shortstops in 69 seasons. Of those 15 shortstops, there are five players who played at a Hall of Fame level for their careers (A-Rod, Jeter, Ripken, Trammell, and Yount). Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are both excellent players, and Tulo might be on a Hall of Fame path. Jim Fregosi was on a HOF path until injuries began limiting his effectiveness at age 29. He still lasted 18 years and was worth almost 50 wins above replacement. Kuenn made eight consecutive All Star teams and was worth 23 WAR through age 29, although part of that was spent as an outfielder. Chris Speier played 19 years in the Majors and was worth in excess of 30 wins. Hansen is not well known today, but was an excellent shortstop in the early 1960s, was worth 24 wins in his career, and managed to hold his value until he turned 30. Even Templeton, considered a huge disappointment after his trade to the Padres, managed to be a productive player until he turned 30. The only true disappointments on this list are Starlin Castro, who still has time to turn it around, and Wil Cordero, who was really just a shortstop in name only, and a scumbag in real life.

Given that impressive pedigree, the Sox would be well served to make Bogaerts a part of their franchise for the next 8-10 years, and give him all the money.

Somehow, I'm even higher on Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. It's not just his name, although that's a big part of it. Like Bogaerts, Odor struggled last year in his first exposure to the Major Leagues, posting an impressive .402 slugging, but just a .297 OBP. This year started out even worse for the 21 year old, as he hit just .144/.252/.233 through May 8, when he was sent down to triple-A. After a month on the farm, Odor has returned with a vengeance, hitting .349/.384/.577 in almost 200 plate appearances. Some of that is fueled by a huge .365 BABIP, but there's simply no getting around the fact that Odor has also gotten better. For the year, he sits at .279/.338/.460 as a 21 year old second baseman with almost 300 plate appearances. Like Bogaerts, he will be under the Rangers control for another four years before they turn him loose at age 25.

The list of all the second basemen 21 and under who have at least a 100 OPS+ and more than 300 plate appearances is even more exclusive than Bogaerts's company above:

Player

Year

Age

Tm

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

Joe Morgan

1965

21

HOU

.271

.373

.418

.791

131

Delino DeShields

1990

21

MON

.289

.375

.393

.768

116

Rod Carew

1967

21

MIN

.292

.341

.409

.750

113

Roberto Alomar

1989

21

SDP

.295

.347

.376

.723

107

Gregg Jefferies

1989

21

NYM

.258

.314

.392

.706

106

Roberto Alomar

1988

20

SDP

.266

.328

.382

.709

105

Cass Michaels

1947

21

CHW

.273

.350

.363

.714

103

Willie Randolph

1976

21

NYY

.267

.356

.328

.684

103

Lou Whitaker

1978

21

DET

.285

.361

.357

.718

101

In six more plate appearances, Odor's 120ish OPS will be second on that list, just below Joe Morgan, the greatest second baseman of the modern era. Carew and Alomar, of course, both made the Hall of Fame, and nobody should quibble if Whitaker or Randolph made it either. As for the other guys, DeShields was most famously traded for Pedro Martinez, but managed to be a valuable player for another 11 seasons, finishing with 24 wins above replacement for his career. Jeffries was never good enough defensively to stay at the position, and so was moved to third base, and then to first, but managed to be a very productive hitter for another six seasons (and then faded into obscurity after that). Michaels was a fine, if oft-injured, player for much of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He made two All Star teams, and was something of a specialist at getting on first base. In 1954, Michaels was hit on the head by Marion Fircano, "a dirty little S.O.B." who was "a marginal pitcher who had a reputation for trying to intimidate pitchers" according to the great Paul Richards. Michaels had to be carried off of the field and never played again. He had been worth more than 16 wins by the time he was 28.

The point is, when players are a young as Bogaerts and Odor, and they have success, they tend to last a long time and be incredibly valuable. They are the kinds of players you build a team around not just for the next four years, but for the next eight or ten. They are exactly the kinds of players you want to sign to long term extensions now before they get more expensive, to give them life-changing money, but not as much life-changing money as you'll have to give them later.