The Red Sox might be getting close to locking up Rafael Devers
Convincing Rafael Devers to sign a contract extension is one of the top priorities for the Boston Red Sox.
While previous efforts to lock up their star third baseman have proven futile, there’s reason to believe that the team is making a serious push to hammer out a deal that keeps him from testing free agency after the 2023 season.
On Monday night, conflicting reports regarding the status of these negotiations. First, Yancen Pujols, of the prominent Dominican outlet El Caribe, reported that the Sox are moving to secure Devers to an extension of at least seven seasons. But it didn’t take long for Boston writers to dump a bucket of cold water on the flames to extinguish the hottest rumor we’ve heard since the end of Boston’s disappointing 2022 season. MassLive’s Chris Cotillo reported that there are no active talks between the Red Sox and Devers. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe echoed that statement by saying that, to the best of his knowledge, there have been no substantively meaningful discussions of an extension.
Both writers are plugged into everything related to the team and typically have reliable intel. If they say there’s nothing cooking, that’s the end of the story, right? A senior club executive went all the way to the Dominican to have birthday cake with Devers, nothing else to see here.
Not so fast, as MLB Insider Héctor Gómez chimed in to confirm the earlier report from Pujols.
One report can be brushed off as a rumor. A second report that confirms the original while adding more details should get our attention.
The terms of the offer that Devers swiftly rejected in April were never fully revealed but Speier reported that the Sox had used Matt Olson’s eight-year, $168M extension from the Atlanta Braves as the “basis for discussions.” Unsurprisingly, Devers’ side was thinking much bigger; Jeff Passan reported that team and player were over $100M apart. These are the type of low-ball situations that repeatedly frustrate Sox fans, as the current ownership group has developed a reputation for being more frugal when it comes to locking up their core young players compared to the lucrative deals they’ve handed out to lure in free agents over the years.
Boston’s brass needs to get serious if they intend to ink Devers to a long-term deal. While he hasn’t given any indication that he’s anxious to leave the only organization he’s ever known, he isn’t overwhelmed with incentives to hash out a deal right now, either. The exact terms of the deal the Red Sox are willing to offer now are yet unknown, but if they are indeed putting something on the table that nearly doubles their last offer, it shows they are finally motivated to pay Devers the money that he’s worth.
Devers was on his way to establishing himself as one of the elite position players in the game during a first half in which he hit .323/.389/.543 through 66 games. A brutal August slump (.164/.226/.289) as he was working his way back from a hamstring injury spoiled what was shaping up to be a career year. Devers finished the year with a strong .295/.358/.521 slash line but 27 home runs and 88 RBI don’t exactly scream ‘superstar.’
If Devers wants to get paid in the stratosphere of the elite run-producers, he might be willing to bet on himself next season. If he’s confident that he’ll stay healthy and produce at the level of his lofty potential, Devers could potentially cash in with a bigger deal than he would in the wake of a mildly disappointing campaign.
Devers should also be interested in the direction that the front office takes to improve a roster that finished last in the AL East. The Red Sox have several notable players potentially hitting free agency, including his close friend Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox have significant room in the budget to work with but also several holes to fill. Devers can afford to be patient, waiting to see how Chaim Bloom’s plan unfolds this winter before committing to the franchise long-term.
While there are multiple reasons why Devers would be reluctant to agree to a deal now, the reports coming from his native Dominican inspire hope that the 26-year-old is open to making a commitment that would keep him in Boston for the foreseeable future.
Reading between the tea leaves of these conflicting reports, it’s clear something is brewing with these negotiations. This isn’t a knock on the stellar reporting of Cotillo or Speier. They are simply doing their jobs by revealing what their sources inside the Red Sox organization are telling them. This suggests that the team isn’t willing to tip their hand about the status of these extension talks, either to preserve leverage or avoid the perception that they failed if a deal doesn’t get done before next season.
Pujols and Gomez didn’t both come up with similar reports about a 7+ year deal unless there was at least a hint of truth behind the rumor. If their sources didn’t come from the team, it’s fair to assume these details came from someone close to Devers. Why would his camp leak a report that the sides were moving toward an agreement if Devers wasn’t open to an extension?
A seven-year deal in the $200-250 million range seems reasonable for both sides. Devers made $11.2 million this season in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he should expect a raise to around $18 million if he goes through the process for a third time. Boston could bump that up to around $20 million for the first year of an extension, then increase his salary to somewhere between $30-35 million for the remaining years. It’s a bit more of a raise than Devers could expect if he goes through arbitration in 2023 but locking in the deal early instead of waiting for him to hit free agency lowers the average annual value of the deal for luxury tax purposes.
This is an encouraging sign for those who feared the Red Sox were going to let Devers walk after next season. We’ve been sweating through the stress of whether or not Bogaerts will be re-signed when he inevitably opts out of his contract next month. Nobody wants to go through that with Devers. The Red Sox need to lock up Devers and the narrative is starting to shift toward getting a deal done this offseason.