Red Sox must offer Rafael Devers an extension to avoid arbitration

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 20: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 20, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 20: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 20, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Red Sox must use salary space for Rafael Devers

This is going to be a massively important offseason for the Red Sox as far as their future success is concerned. I know that may sound incredibly dramatic but coming off of the heels of a terrible 2019 and an even worse 2020, Chaim Bloom and the organization can’t afford to miss a beat. The first target should be pitching with a glance towards the outfield, but Bloom has to do some housecleaning in regards to his existing roster as well.

Rafael Devers has been a mainstay for the Red Sox over the last few years and has been one of the few bright spots in the lineup since 2018. This winter he’s eligible for his first year of arbitration and it would be in Boston’s best interests to make sure that doesn’t happen. This isn’t a middle reliever or low man on the totem pole we’re dealin’ with, Devers is one of the team’s best players and he’s going to want to be paid as such. He’s estimated to command anywhere from $3.4-$6.3M based on calculations.

Bloom’s predecessor was able to avoid a headache with Raffy’s comrade Xander Bogaerts and it’s one of the few things he needs to copy. The situation is a bit different as Bogey’s extension before 2019 was to re-sign him long-term ahead of his impending free agency. For Devers though, he has the potential to earn more than his teammate based on his numbers which should set off alarms in Bloom’s budget-conscious mind.

FSG won’t allow the team to miss the playoffs beyond the last two seasons and it’s his job to get them back to the promised land, and that means keeping Raffy on a CBT friendly salary for the foreseeable future. We all know what he did last year and what he meant to the Red Sox. It felt like more often than not we were seeing a new stat that put him in the annals of Boston sports history with Ted Williams, some pretty good company.

He started 2020 ice cold, which barring the Opening Day mauling of the Orioles, that could be said for the entire Boston lineup. However, as the second half of the season got underway he turned the pages back to 2019 and reminded the world that he’s pretty damn good at baseball. His defense was still awful but considering he hit damn near every ball thrown to him towards the end of the year, I’ll take that balance.

So why is it so imperative that the Red Sox offer Rafael an extension as soon as possible, well, much like 2020, it’s all about the money. If he continues on the trajectory that he’s currently on then he’s going to far exceed the budget that Boston will want to keep him within. Looking around the league the best comp for Raffy would be Houston’s Alex Bregman, who signed an extension for 5 yrs/$100M that went effective in 2020.

Now, I will admit I don’t like Bregman at all but he’s a hell of a player. He’s got a leg up on Devers in that he’s a two-time All-Star, AS MVP, and a Silver Slugger. The duo both have a single World Series title to their names though. Raffy has the advantage in age as he’s two years younger than Bregman which could bode well in contract length during negotiations. However, Bregman has a strong advantage in the offense realm over their careers, but Raffy isn’t far behind.

I’m not sure if Devers will be able to command that same kind of deal and for me, it’s going to be the aforementioned poor defense that does him in. His .891 Fld% in 2020 landed him 58th among 72 third basemen in the American League. That’s pretty damn bad. Whereas Bregman finished 36th, but with all stats, these rankings have to taken with a grain of salt.

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It’s easy to get a good Fld% when you barely play, such as Cheslor Cuthbert and his 1.000% in his one inning of play. Speaking of innings played, Raffy finished second in the American League with 475 versus Bregman’s 363.1. Oh yeah, Devers also had twice as many errors as the next third baseman in 2020 with a total of 14 to a four-way tie with six and Bregman’s two.

So, we’ve talked about the positives of Raffy Devers and the negatives, it’s time to get back to the main point here, a contract extension. If he gets an offer in the realm of what Bregman got then that’s pretty damn great for Raffy, but I can’t see it happening. Now, something along the lines of 4yrs/$80M or even 5yrs/$75M could be more realistic. It’ll get him in the ballpark of what a player of his caliber is worth, while not breaking the bank for the Red Sox.

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If Bloom doesn’t offer Devers an extension then he may get lucky this winter, but another strong season in 2021, and those arbitration demands are going to skyrocket. While Chaim is working the free-agent market to shore up some of the issues that plagued the team in 2019 and 2020, he also needs to keep his in-house stars happy. As I’ve discussed here, a win-win for the Red Sox and Devers would be a nice contract extension now that keeps him in a Boston uniform for the foreseeable future.