Red Sox can use Jose Ramirez extension as a template for Rafael Devers

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after hitting an inside the park home run in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after hitting an inside the park home run in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Here’s what it should take for the Red Sox to extend Rafael Devers

The Boston Red Sox have yet to hammer out a long-term extension for Rafael Devers but we now have an idea of what the starting point should be after the Cleveland Guardians inked their own superstar third baseman to a new deal.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Jose Ramirez has agreed to a five-year, $124 million contract extension. The deal includes a full no-trade clause. With this year and the pickup of a 2023 option, Ramirez is guaranteed $150 million.

Ramirez is a three-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger award winner who has finished in the top-three on the AL MVP ballot three times and was sixth last season. Devers made his first All-Star appearance and won his first Silver Slugger last season. While he hasn’t cracked the top-10 in the MVP race yet, the Red Sox expect their budding young superstar to join that elite class as he enters his prime.

Since 2017, Ramirez leads all major league third basemen with 28.0 WAR, per FanGraphs. Devers is a distant 12th with 12.9 fWAR over that span, although he played in 100 fewer games since this sample includes an abbreviated rookie season for the Red Sox third baseman. Ramirez led the position last season with 6.3 fWAR, giving him comfortable lead over the second-place Devers (4.7 fWAR).

The notable gap in fWAR is created almost entirely by their defensive metrics. Ramirez has primarily played third base in recent years but he’s capable of covering second base and he spent some time at shortstop earlier in his career. He plays these positions well, particularly the hot corner where he has produced 18 defensive runs saved over eight seasons at the position. Devers is atrocious in the field, producing -38 DRS in fewer than five full seasons and routinely ranking among the league leaders in errors.

Despite the deficiencies with his glovework, Devers is going to get paid based on his bat. Offensively, his production was nearly identical to Ramirez’s last season.

Ramirez: .266/.355/.538, .372 wOBA, 137 wRC+, 36 home runs, 111 RBI
Devers: .279/.352/.538, .373 wOBA, 135 wRC+, 38 home runs, 101 RBI

Ramirez is set to make $12 million this season, which is slightly higher than the $11.2 million that Devers received in his second year of arbitration. Devers isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, which is when the extension for Ramirez kicks in.

The five-year extension portion of Ramirez’s deal carries an average annual value of $24.8 million, which is about what Devers should be aiming for.

The tricky part is that we don’t know what Devers would get next year in his final year of arbitration-eligibility. We should assume he would get more of a bump than the $14 million that Ramirez will earn from the bargain club option that Cleveland picked up as part of this extension. However, Devers won’t come close to the nearly $25 million value of the extension years if he goes through the arbitration process next year.

A fair estimate for Devers next year would be $17 million, which is about what Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge was projected for by MLB Trade Rumors (Judge filed at $21 million while the Yankees offered $17 million but it’s hard to see how Judge deserves to win his case if it goes before an arbitration panel).

Devers is four years younger than Ramirez, so he’ll obviously warrant a longer deal, although he may insist on an opt-out being built somewhere into the deal. For the sake of argument, let’s follow the same blueprint by projecting a 10-year extension that kicks in for Devers starting in 2023, buying out his final arbitration year. That gives Devers 11 total years, four more than Ramirez.

2022: $11.2 million
2023: $17 million
2024: $24.8 million
2025: $24.8 million
2026: $24.8 million
2027: $24.8 million
2028: $24.8 million
2029: $24.8 million
2030: $24.8 million
2031: $24.8 million
2032: $24.8 million
Total: $251.4 million

The Red Sox would be getting more of his prime years by locking in the 25-year-old Devers now but the team also accepts more risk with a contract that runs over a decade. Ramirez’s superior defense and base-running make him the better all-around player, which helps balance the age gap. There isn’t a perfect comparison but the Ramirez extension provides a template for the starting point where the Red Sox can open negotiations.

Whether or not Devers would accept anything in the vicinity of an 11-year, $251.4 million deal depends on what he values most. If his goal is to maximize his potential earnings, waiting for free agency is always going to be the route with the most upside, in which case Boston’s chances of hashing out an extension are only slightly above zero. If he wants the security of a long-term deal that protects him from the risk of a major injury or his defensive limitations leading to teams viewing him as a designated hitter later in his career, Devers might be open to getting a deal done now.

Time is running out before Opening Day and Devers has already said he’s not interested in discussing his contract during the season. It might be a long short given the short window, but Ramirez’s deal proves teams can get it done at the last minute.

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