Red Sox face a Sophie’s Choice with Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers

BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox looks down to first base after his throw against the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on May 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox looks down to first base after his throw against the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Fenway Park on May 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

Who do the Red Sox keep – Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers?

The Boston Red Sox may face a Sophie’s Choice situation regarding Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Sophie’s Choice is a novel by William Styron, and Contextually it is now used as an example of a tough decision since both outcomes could be equally desirable or undesirable.

In the era of Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox would not be intimidated by a luxury tax, free agency, or possible contractual consequences. Yawkey would spend as he had done his entire years as owner. A similar path was used by the current ownership as the Red Sox continually flirted with the 800-pound gorilla known as the luxury tax.

The assumption is that Bogaerts would opt out and seek compensation that represents what shortstops are being paid. Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Carlos Correa are all in the range of $35 MM annually, and Bogaerts is at $20 MM – at least for the next few months. What do you get for your money?

XB is an offensive machine. He has four Silver Slugger Awards and is working on a fifth. Home run power, run-producing, extra-base hits, batting average, and all the boxes are checked. Bogaerts has not slowed down with his bat, and his current 145 wRC+ is a career-high.

Defense has always been a question of concern and negativity when defining Bogaerts’ all-around game. The metrics point to a competent fielder and the eyeball test of years of observation confirms that. Steady, but not flashy.

Manager Alex Cora has spoken in the past regarding Bogaert’s leadership abilities. No rah, rah, or fist-pounding but a professional approach that commandeers respect and attention, especially from younger players. This is how you play the game and act like a big leaguer.

Why would any management let this type of player getaway?

The Red Sox management already has a backup plan in Trevor Story. Story is also being paid what would be commensurate with the Red Sox’s offer to Bogaerts of four years at $90 MM. Bogaerts rejected the Red Sox offer.

The Red Sox farm system is getting ripe with infielder fruit, and Marcelo Mayer could be the Red Sox answer to the Rays’ Wander Franco. The list has names that could mature into firm MLB prospects or drift into oblivion.

The money issue is always front and center as the Red Sox are on a fiscal diet. But the money is there with other contracts expiring after this season. The Yankees have blown through the LT, and Boston could do the same. I tend to dismiss the money argument. This is the Red Sox and not the Royals or Reds.

Bogaerts will be 30 years old in 2023, which is approaching the notorious declining years for a baseball player. The Aging Curve is not a given, as Nelson Cruz could tell you with his numbers, but it exists. That increases the risk factor if the Red Sox get serious and offer a five-year or longer extension, but the curve evaporates with Devers.

Devers will be 26 years old in the 2023 season and a free agent after the season ends unless Boston pays some serious baseball money. Devers is one of the best hitters in the game and is showing signs of getting even better. His 173 wRC+ and 3.4 fWAR after just 60 games are remarkable.

Devers is similar to two players I remember from the past – Yogi Berra and Roberto Clemente. Both had an innate ability to hit just about anything thrown in any area around the plate. Devers recently won a game with a dinger a foot off the plate.

The downside with Devers is defense, but this season has shown significant metrics improvement. Is it a mirage? I do recall Wade Boggs considered fielding a ball the same as fielding a hand grenade. Deserved or not, Boggs eventually won two Gold Glove Awards.

Devers will not be like buying a Yugo but a Bentley. A Seager-type contract or more but this is an elite hitter on the path to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Red Sox cannot afford another Mookie Betts situation from a PR perspective.

Boston could avoid the contract situation by making a trade. Devers would have a limited market since any prospective trading partner would like a few contractual guarantees before shipping their farm system to Boston. Similar to Boston’s move a decade ago to trade for Adrian Gonzalez.

So in this choice, who do you take?

Bogaerts would be cheaper, but Devers would be in his prime years, and one would assume a higher upside offensively. If Boston decides to send both packing, trade value will give the edge to Devers in a singular trade or both being dealt.

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My Sophie’s Choice would be to exit Bogaerts. The age factor, Story, Mayer, would combine to make it the most reasonable. But I drift back to Yawkey and would make every effort to keep both; damn the LT, and have two All-Stars for the next five seasons.