The Red Sox have agreed on a salary for Rafael Devers this year
Crisis averted! The Boston Red Sox appeared to be heading for an arbitration hearing with third baseman Rafael Devers after the sides were unable to come to an agreement on his 2022 salary prior to Tuesday’s deadline, according to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.
A few hours later, the narrative shifted completely when MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand revealed that the sides had kept negotiating and eventually reached and agreement on an $11.2 million deal to avoid arbitration.
Apparently these arbitration deadlines are as arbitrary as the ones the owners set during the lockout. You can keep talking through the deadline and still work something out.
MLB Trade rumors projected that Devers would earn $11.1 million this season. Devers ended up getting a slight bump from that estimate.
This agreement is an encouraging outcome that should calm the nerves of those concerned about a looming arbitration hearing that would have taken place during the regular season, creating an unnecessary distraction.
While the process seems relatively straightforward, arbitration hearings can be uncomfortable for both sides. The Red Sox would basically have been asked to explain to a panel why they believe the player is worth less than he’s asking for while the player sits in the room listening to his team pick apart his flaws. Most players understand that this is a business and there are typically no hard feelings afterwards but there’s always that risk of upsetting the player or planting the seed of doubt in their mind about their future with the franchise. If nothing else, it’s an awkward experience for everyone involved.
The Red Sox tend to avoid going to hearings but they do have a couple of notable recent examples. Mookie Betts went to arbitration in 2018, winning his case with a salary that fell just shy of the record for first-year eligible players. Eduardo Rodriguez lost his arbitration case in 2020. Both players remained in good standing with the organization beyond those hearings but neither was able to work out an extension, leading to their eventual departures.
There’s no such concern with Devers now that he’s on the same page with the team regarding his value this year. We won’t need to worry about his salary until next year when Devers can go through the process for a third time.
Unless, of course, the Red Sox lock up their star third baseman to a long-term extension. Going to an arbitration hearing risked creating a rift between the player and team that could have hindered extension talks. Avoiding arbitration creates a glimmer of optimism.
Unfortunately, Cotillo’s report mentioned that a serious offer wasn’t on the table yet and a multi-year contract wasn’t part of the discussions when they were working on a deal to avoid arbitration.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Devers can’t test free agency until after the 2023 season so there is no urgency to rush into an extension. The Red Sox would presumably jump at the chance to lock him into a team-friendly contract similar to the one they inked Xander Bogaerts to a few years ago. What evidence do we have that Devers would agree to that? Devers has expressed interest in staying in Boston but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to accept a hometown discount.
If Boston isn’t getting somewhat of a bargain, there’s little incentive to lock him in two years ahead of free agency. Perhaps they’d prefer to wait and see if Devers improves defensively this season. Before they pay him to be one of the highest paid third basemen in the league, it would be nice to have some reason for optimism that he won’t be an overpaid designated hitter.
The Red Sox were also able to come to terms with their other arbitration-eligible players, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray.
The Red Sox have a bit more payroll certainty in the wake of these agreements. With these deals out of the way, Chaim Bloom can focus on exploring any last minute opportunities to fill out the roster before Opening Day.