Boston Red Sox

  • Just as Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers has emerged as arguably the best hitter in all of baseball, the team appears to playing an all-too-familiar game of lowball.

    According to a new column from Alex Speier at the Boston Globe, the Red Sox used another player’s recent contract extension as a “basis for discussions” with Devers, who is on track to become a free agent after the 2023 season. That comp would be Braves first baseman Matt Olson, who recently signed an eight-year, $168 million extension with Atlanta – an average annual value of just $21 million.

    Here’s how Speier described the situation:

    According to a major league source familiar with the talks, the Red Sox identified Matt Olson’s eight-year, $168 million extension with Atlanta as a basis for discussions — citing the likelihood that Devers would spend much of the contract either at first base or designated hitter.

    The Red Sox may not necessarily be wrong about eventually moving Devers to first base and/or DH. Olson is a two-time Gold Glove winner at first, and Devers will likely never reach that level defensively.

    At the same time, Devers has shown improvement in the field in 2022. His 0.9 defensive runs saved above average ranks eighth among qualifying third basemen, a better mark than the Astros’ Alex Bregman (0.7). He’s cut back on the fielding errors, with just four at the All-Star break, after making 12 in 2021.

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  • Despite all that, what actually makes the Olson comparison ridiculous is their offensive production. Olson is no slouch, to be fair. In 2021, he launched 39 home runs with a .911 OPS in his final season with the Oakland A’s. But in his first year with the Braves, his OPS dipped to .827, and he posted a WAR of just 1.8 in 94 games.

    Contrast that with Devers, who has logged a .924 OPS in his past 242 games, from 2021 through the first half of 2022. Devers leads the American League in hits (112), runs created (78), and offensive WAR (4.6). He’s second in the league in batting average (.324), runs (62), and total bases (208). He’s third in OPS (.980) and slugging (.601).

    In other words, Devers is in the conversation for the title of “Best Position Player In Baseball.” It’s basically Devers, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, and the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez.

  • Olson leads the National League in … plate appearances. And doubles, to be fair. But he’s no Devers. And for the Red Sox to directly compare their homegrown superstar third baseman to Olson could reasonably be considered an insult.

    Not to mention, Devers is still just 25 years old, three years younger than Olson.

    It’s understandable that the Red Sox wouldn’t just lead right out with a top-of-the-market offer. Even someone with no business acumen whatsoever can figure that part out. But based on the reports out of Fenway Park, with both Devers and shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox seem to be keeping their wallets frustratingly tight.

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 12: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-0 lead during the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park on June 12, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JUNE 12: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-0 lead during the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park on June 12, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    Even as a long-term first baseman, Devers should land a deal well north of $21 million per season, certainly on the open market. That’s what makes the whole thing annoying for fans. If the Red Sox won’t pay this guy, who will they ever pay?!

    Devers is eligible to enter arbitration for one more year, before 2023. Even if he wins, the Red Sox will likely get quite the bargain. Devers is making a relatively paltry $11.2 million in 2022.

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  • In the meantime, Devers will start at third base for the American League in the 2022 All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. Assuming he stays healthy, he’ll have a chance to grab an MVP trophy at the end of the season, and to power the Red Sox in October. It’s likely Devers only gets more expensive from here.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.