The latest update on Rafael Devers’ contract situation is exactly what you’d expect
December 19th, 2022
With Xander Bogaerts now officially out the door, all attention regarding the Red Sox front office turns to the contract situation of 26-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is entering his final year of arbitration, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2023 season, unless a new long-term deal gets signed before then.
Devers represents the last chance for Red Sox ownership to do something they’ve pledged to but regularly failed to over the last 10 years – keep a homegrown franchise cornerstone type of player in Boston for the long haul. The last such player to fit that description and play into his 30’s in Boston was Dustin Pedroia, with departures of players like Bogaerts, Jon Lester, and Mookie Betts all starting to create a pattern. After Devers, the next players who may fit that description are prospects like Brayan Bello and Marcelo Mayer, who are still almost a decade away from those types of contract discussions.
So how are things going with Devers, in terms of negotiating a new contract to avoid him hitting free agency? It’s still early, but the initial indications suggest Jersey Street is sticking with a similar approach.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 15: Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom addresses the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
In a story on ESPN Monday morning, MLB insider Joon Lee shared that “executives around the sport see the same pattern emerging with Red Sox star third baseman Rafael Devers.” Lee added that “according to multiple league sources, the Red Sox and Devers are ‘galaxies apart’ in their contract negotiations. The current expectation from Devers and his camp is that the third baseman will be a free agent at the end of 2023, given the current state of contract talks.” If that all sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s similar to the way Bogaerts’ situation was described at this time last year.
Just like with Bogaerts, the Red Sox are openly refuting these reports. “We will probably, I think, go beyond reason to try to get this done,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told ESPN last week. “Hopefully we can get this done. There are always going to be limitations, like people can just put something plain out of reach. Some people love to bet on themselves and I hope he hits 63 homers if he does that.”
That last part is what’s really frustrating about this situation. One of the biggest missteps for the Red Sox with Bogaerts – and Bloom did acknowledge that in that situation “there are a couple of regrets” – was low-balling Bogaerts instead of trying to get a serious deal done before he hit free agency. Once he hit the open market, his price went up – as is the case for just about any free agent in any sport.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 16: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 16, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Despite calling Bogaerts their “top priority” in free agency, the Red Sox never really acted like it, reportedly dragging their feet on a serious offer until the 11th hour. Now history appears to be in line to repeat itself once again, right down to a Red Sox source calling Devers the team’s “No. 1 priority” according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post.
There’s one more quote from Lee’s report that stands out – this one from team president Sam Kennedy. “It gets frustrating and irritating when you hear [questions] about your commitment to winning,” Kennedy said. “All of our decisions we make are geared towards trying to win a World Series championship. We don’t get those questions when we’re winning.”
It’s tough to see one team executive talk about “limitations” with a 26-year-old perennial MVP candidate, as another talks about fans questioning the commitment to winning. If there’s a team out there willing to not set limitations on a player – as the Padres did with Bogaerts – then it’s not really a limitation. The market sets the value of a player in free agency more than anything else, yet the Red Sox seem content with doing business without taking the overall market into context. Teams will be willing to back up the Brinks truck for a player like Devers, and if the Red Sox won’t then their efforts deserve questioning as to why they think he’s worth significantly less than other competitors.
Again, it’s still early. The Red Sox can exclusively negotiate a long-term deal with Devers right up until the start of free agency, which will be at some point in the second week of Nov. 2023. Still, taking it down to the wire is very risky, especially because if Devers walks and the team doesn’t have to trade him, they’ll have lost one of the best players in the game for nothing – for a second consecutive year.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.