Red Sox must prioritize Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers this winter

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 4: Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom speaks during a town hall press conference on February 4, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 4: Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom speaks during a town hall press conference on February 4, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Red Sox must prioritize their stars this offseason

This Red Sox winter will be an enjoyable or a dreadful one dependent upon what transpires in the next few months. A deep playoff run that includes a visit to the World Series and Red Sox Nation is a group of happy campers. A quick playoff exit or a crash as the season moves forward and the Samaritans could be flush with Red Sox misery.

Just what will happen this offseason? Never too early to dip one’s toes into the waters of adventurism. The Red Sox will continue to have payroll issues but they will not render Chaim Bloom and management toothless. What I see as potential targeting is players themselves. Two players in Boston’s future may just hinge on this offseason.

Most notable on the to-do list is slugger Rafael Devers. Devers is lighting it up as he did in 2019 and proving as with many players – that those performances of 2020 were an aberration. Devers will be in arbitration and apparently is delighted to be a member of the Red Sox. Are they just as delighted?

One of the storylines that surface on social media and all other baseball-oriented media is an extension. Matt Barnes recently was so anointed and settled with a comfortable $18.75 MM contract extension. Baseball chump change for what Devers is worth and most certainly will have his representatives ask.

Just what type of extension? How much do you dole out to negate the arbitration years? Devers may not get a Fernando Tatis Jr. contract but may not be far off. Do the Red Sox even do it? Do they make a solid effort or a half-hearted one for PR? Why not just wait? And if they make an offer that does appear reasonable is that a starting point for negotiations or a death knell if Devers chooses to pass?

The Mookie Betts situation is the template. Boston went as far as they were willing and it is all conjecture regarding Betts’ willingness to stay in Boston. Boston apparently felt that the fiscal line in the sand would be one they would not step over. Would the same apply to Devers?

With Bloom’s history in Boston and Tampa being a big-name player or even being considered a franchise player is no protection. Granted Tampa was notoriously stingy. If there is a stall or management suspects a degree of futility in signing Devers long term they may just pull the trade trigger. The return would most certainly be substantial.

Offensive production at shortstop is always a pleasant bonus for a position that traditional was defense first. That has dramatically changed and the Red Sox have one if not the best in Xander Bogaerts. Bogey is signed to a lengthy contract that is termed “team friendly” even at $20 MM a season.

What Bogaerts has thanks to the diligent efforts of his agent Scott Boras is an escape clause. The opt-out now seems almost a standard addition to long-term deals for top-tier players. Bogaert’s opt-out is triggered after 2022. That brings us to Francisco Lindor.

Cleveland didn’t hesitate in trading Lindor to the Mets knowing the rarified contract air Lindor was to reside in was unaffordable for the Tribe. Lindor signed a deal that averages $34 MM for the next ten years. Bogaerts is the consummate team player and professional who has been reticent about his contract future.

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This offseason the Red Sox management has to evaluate Bogaerts’s contract and attempt to start the renegotiation train with Boras. Would Boras and Bogaerts be placated by matching the yearly stipend to Lindor for the remaining five years? That would be an admirable starting point to anticipate just what direction Bogaerts and his representatives are pursuing.

As with Devers, this may end up being another situation where a hard decision regarding Bogaerts Boston’s future will have to be made. And as with Devers, the return would be substantial but not in the Devers territory. While it’s hard to imagine either wearing another team’s uniform, we all thought the same about Mookie. When it comes down to it though Bloom has to answer to his bosses, if they want to keep the dynamic duo, he’ll write the checks.

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The idea is to keep franchise players but payroll is of utmost consideration. Heavyweight contracts have an unfortunate shelf life. That may eventually surface with the Betts contract. Boston may also be in a situation of one or the other and not both. There is a limit to just how many $20 MM plus contracts you can have and remain solvent. Meanwhile, the time for this is well down the road and it is purely conjecture. The real story is the pennant race and playoff potential. The down the road is just that – down the road.