2021 is officially behind us but baseball is still stuck in limbo as the lockout remains. Many Red Sox fans and myself were hopeful that Chaim Bloom could have struck a deal with Devers’ agent to keep the 25 year-old third baseman in Boston for years to come. Unfortunately, nothing happened prior to the lockout and now no negotiations can take place. There is still plenty of time to strike a deal before Devers becomes a free agent in 2024.
I have had many conversations with Red Sox fans on social media and it surprises me how the fanbase seems to be split 50/50 on whether or not they want Devers to receive an extension during this off-season. I will try my best to remain neutral as I try to make arguments for and against extending Devers, although I clearly land on one side of the fence.
I think one of the main arguments for extending Devers is he’s the perfect age. Devers will be entering his age 25 season. I have always felt like a 10 year extension would make sense and eliminate the last two years of arbitration seasons remaining on his rookie contract paying Devers what he is truly worth now. I say a 10 year extension just based off of his age and what similar players have received in recent years. A 10 year extension would pay Devers through his age 35 season, an age that is not as scary as some of these other mega extension deals. For example, the Dodgers traded and extended Mookie Betts to a 12 year extension, an extension that will pay Mookie 32.9 million dollars through his age 39 season. Bryce Harper will make 23.5 million dollars in his final season with the Phillies at the age of 39. I am not saying extending those players were terrible decisions but I would not want to see Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox commit to any player that will pay the player into his late 30s. If Bloom and company decide to make the move now and extend Devers, they will avoid having to pay him into his late 30s (assuming a 10 year extension).
Another reason I think a Devers extension needs to happen is the importance of having a key piece for the future. I don’t think many Red Sox fans could have predicted a better start to his career that started when he was 19 years-old. Devers’ slash line throughout his young career is .279 / .338 / .509 and he already has 112 career home runs. Devers provides elite production and I do not think his 2021 was a fluke season. I can see Devers repeating his 21’ campaign and even going beyond his breakout season. It would be a luxury for Bloom and Cora to know they can anchor their lineup around Devers for the next decade.
Red Sox fans’ hearts have been through the wringer with the inability to keep their home grown talent. They failed to bring back Jon Lester after trading him to Oakland, only to watch him win a World Series with the Chicago Cubs. Then a franchise caliber player in Mookie Betts was traded and signed with the Dodgers. We really have no idea if the Red Sox and Betts came close to an extension before deciding to move on from the former MVP. The Red Sox thought they had a future star in Andrew Benetendi but things went south quickly and he was moved for a bunch of prospects last off-season. There is uncertainty around Xander Bogaerts as he will most likely opt out after the 22’ season, especially after some of the deals the free agent shortstops signed before the lockout. I do believe that the fanbase needs to have at least one player where they can say “that’s the face of the franchise.” I know many fans who would never even consider investing in a jersey because the player turnover in baseball is just too high. Devers can be that guy moving forward.
Now, if you happen to fall into the camp of “don’t extend Devers,” you do have some compelling arguments to make. Rafael Devers is under a club friendly contract for 2 more seasons. If the Red Sox are trying to put the best roster on the field in 22’, how could Chaim Bloom say he is doing his best putting a winning roster together if you pay Devers more than his 11 million for next season? The money they are saving by not paying Devers more could be used to sign a reliever or even bring back Schwarber. There is no reason to pay Devers more now when they can extend him next off-season or in 2 years.
One of the big reasons Red Sox fans do not want an extension is due to the uncertainty of his defensive future. Devers has been locked in as the Boston third baseman but saying he struggles over at the hot corner is an understatement. Devers ranked 135 out of 135 eligible third basemen in DRS (-13). Now, DRS is only one defensive metric but OAA (Outs above average) has him ranked last (43rd) with -13 as well according to Baseball Savant. For me, it seemed like Devers improved defensively as the season progressed but even if that is true, Devers has a long way to go to be considered at least an average defender. If the Red Sox are going to pay Devers like one of the top players in the game, they should not only be paying for an offensive player. There is a possibility that Devers will not be able to stay at third base for much longer and will either have to move to first or DH. With the Red Sox top prospect being a first baseman in Triston Casas, moving him to first does not seem to be the best move for the organization long term. And I do not know if you will be able to find a Red Sox fan or a baseball fan who would be fine with a 25 year-old DH for the next decade. The defensive issues need to be fixed and need to be fixed quickly or else Devers’ value will be capped.
Another argument is Devers is coming off of his best season of his career and his peak dollar amount will be right now. It is possible that he regresses a little and the Red Sox would not have to pay at such a premium. My only concern with that argument is I am a believer that he has another gear still left to uncover and if that becomes true, then the Red Sox could be getting a bargain now before he breaks out even more. 2021 saw him finish 11th in the MVP voting. What if he continues to develop and he becomes a top 5 MVP candidate? If you are going to make the argument that his value could drop if there is some regression in production then I think you need to be prepared for what could happen if the opposite is true.
Right now, we wait in limbo. It is unclear if Chaim Bloom will try to give Devers an extension whenever this stupid lockout is done. It’s quite possible that Mr. Bloom will try to figure out Bogaerts’ contract situation since Xander will be up before Rafael. If you were Chaim Bloom, would you lock up Devers or let this play out?
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