San Diego Padres stars Xander Bogaerts and Ha-Seong Kim switching positions

The Friars' middle infield gets a spring-training shakeup

When the Padres signed Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year, $280 million contract, they assured him he would be their shortstop in 2023. After that, nothing was assured.

In 2024, there will be a change. The club officially announced Bogaerts will be the everyday second baseman in 2024, allowing Ha-Seong Kim to move back to his natural shortstop spot. Bogaerts has never played a single MLB inning at the keystone, spending his entire career at short and third base.

It needs to be stated: This is not a demotion. It's a reallocation of assets.

"I don't want to misrepresent," says Padres manager Mike Shildt. "Xander Bogaerts played a really good shortstop for the San Diego Padres last year."

Bogaerts was a respectable three outs above average in his first season in San Diego. That's certainly nothing to sneeze at. However, the guy who's moving to short is even better with the glove. Kim is the reigning Utility Golf Glove winner and when he manned shortstop full-time in 2022, he was worth eight outs above average. To his credit, Bogaerts is not complaining about the change.

"To me, I just live and die baseball," Bogaerts said. "I was like, 'Listen, man, if you guys think this is the way the team is better, I respect Kim, especially defensively.' I actually admire him a lot."

Bogaerts is not your typical secnd baseman. At 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds he's built more like an NFL safety than Jose Altuve. Xander said his reaction to the proposed move was a bit surprising, even to himself.

"I think that, deep down in my heart, I was actually cool with it," Bogaerts said. "I didn't expect, maybe, to be cool with it, but what more can I accomplish in this game? The only reason I came here was to win a World Series, so if this is the way we're going to get one, so be it. I was just thinking, I won a World Series at third base, I won one at shortstop, and it would be very nice to win one at secnd base."

Shildt actually broached the topic to Bogaerts in December when the new skipper flew to Bogaerts' native Aruba for a chat. Shildt said he was impressed with the leadership his veteran middle infielder showed.

"I don't use this word a lot: My admiration for Xander Bogaerts went through the roof in this transition," Shildt said. "To be a good teammate, to recognize that we have an elite defender in Kimmy — I just admire him and think it's very impressive. It says a lot about him."

Shildt did leave open the slightest possibility that Bogaerts and Kim could move back at some point, but for now the plan is in place. We'll see if they're both in the lineup on Thursday, Feb. 22, for the first Cactus League game against the Dodgers.

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