Boston Red Sox

Tony Massarotti

Mazz: should the Red Sox consider a trade involving Rafael Devers?

Serious question: should the Red Son consider a trade involving Rafael Devers? Wait ... WHAT??? Let's try to explain. On Sunday, Devers went 2-for-4 with a triple and home run, also making a terrific defensive play in the late innings against the Detroit Tigers. which you can see here: https://twitter.com/TalkinBaseball_/status/1797357798650466417 Of course, despite Devers' efforts, the Red Sox lost the game in extra innings, 8-4, once again dropping to a perfectly mediocre 30-30. (As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe recently noted, this marked the 13th time this season the Red Sox have had precisely as many wins as losses.) With or without Devers, the 2024 Red Sox are on the same treadmill they have been on for roughly six years - and one can't help but wonder how long the Red Sox will continue to spin their wheels. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Red Sox are 386-382, a .503 winning percentage that ranks 16th in baseball. And remember that includes a 2021 season in which the Red Sox reached the American League Championship Series. Minus 2021, the Red Sox are 294-312. And then there's this: next month, Devers will turn 27 years old, which is to suggest he is now in the prime of his professional career. How long he remains there is open to debate. One of the most gifted pure hitters in baseball, Devers' production in recent years has been elite. No matter what Devers when he steps on the field again - presumably, tonight against Atlanta at Fenway Park - his next game will mark his 500th since the start of the 2021 season. During that time time, among regulars with at least 500 games played, Devers ranks sixth in the entire major leagues in OPS, behind only Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson and Kyle Tucker. (For what it's worth, all of those players bat left-handed.) If we change those parameters to 300 games played over the last two-plus years, only Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez join the group ahead of Devers. ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 07: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 07, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Now next obvious question: starting in 2022, what good has that done the Red Sox? Boston finished last in 2022 and again in 2023, going a combined 12 games below .500. They are well on their way to another mediocre finish this year. Last offseason, the Red Sox once again changed heads of their baseball operation by swapping Chaim Bloom for Craig Breslow, which suggests the onset of another 3-5 year plan. The organization is still bereft of elite pitching depth. Drafting and developing it could take a while. Could a trade of Rafael Devers help stock the system with pitching? And if so, particularly with highly-touted positional prospects Marcelo Mayer, Kyle Teel and Roman Anthony on the way - and all bat left-landed, like Devers - might a trade of Devers actually make more sense on the Red Sox' current timeline? The answer is yes. But, of course, that hardly means the Red Sox would do it. This year, as we all know, Devers is in the first season of a 10-year, $313.5 million contract that averages $29.3 million against the luxury tax. (The deal contains $75 million in deferred money, which lowers the tax hit by roughly $2 million per season.) Whether the Red Sox truly wanted to give Devers that contract remains something of a debate, particularly given the projection that Devers will inevitably end up as a designated hitter. If and when he makes that transition - and it is coming, one way or another - he will easily be the highest paid designated hitter in the history. Quickly, let's acknowledge a couple of things. First, trading Rafael Devers would require the Red Sox to accept a massive public relations hit, which they are unlikely to do in the wake of the Mookie Betts debacle. Second, even as a DH, Devers would be worth the annual accounting hit of $29 million a year if he continues to hit like the top 10 offensive players in the game. But if the production slips at all - especially when Devers moves on from third base - and he is still one of the poorer regular third basemen in baseball - Devers will cease to be worth the colossal contract the Red Sox may have granted him out of guilt and desperation. After all, why would the Sox pay only one contract while skimping on so many others? Again, let's make something clear here. No fan or Red Sox follower wants to trade Devers, especially with the team devoid of superstars and/or an identity. But during spring training, Devers complained about the seeming apathy of Sox ownership and management. He's not thrilled about the current state of affairs, either. And if Devers wanted out of Boston the way that Betts and then Xander Bogaerts did, well, could you blame him?

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