Latest Rafael Devers Red Sox extension rumor is infuriating but not surprising

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 16: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park on September 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 16: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park on September 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The brief shining moment of hope Boston Red Sox fans experienced earlier this week is gone as fast as it came.

When Yancen Pujols reported that the Sox had a man in the Dominican Republic (assistant GM Eddie Romero, as it turns out) to ramp up extension talks with Rafael Devers, fans rejoiced.

We should’ve known better. It’s never that easy with this team, ever.

On Thursday, Jon Heyman reported that while the Sox have given Devers a new offer, it’s in the $200M range, while his camp is thinking $300M at least. Essentially, Jeff Passan’s report from last spring – that the two sides had a $100+ million chasm between them – remains the same.

Red Sox, Rafael Devers reportedly still $100M or so apart in contract negotiations

It’s absolutely phenomenal stuff from a front office that seems to have the same learning curve as Charlie Brown with that darn football. Of course, they’re also Lucy, and we’re the putzes saying “Oh brother” every time this team yanks the pigskin away again.

If you’re surprised that the Red Sox are lowballing their brightest homegrown star, please invite me to join you under the rock you must have been living under for the last decade.

The Sox did this with Jon Lester. How’d that work out? He ended up on the Oakland A’s less than a year after leading the Sox to a heroic World Series championship in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and then signed a lucrative contract with the Chicago Cubs and pitched them to their first championship in over a century.

The Sox did this with Mookie Betts. How’d that work out? They traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who promptly gave him the extension the Sox wouldn’t and then he helped them win their first championship in over four decades.

Why do the Sox do this?

They are one of the richest teams in the league, charge more for the whole ballpark experience than almost any other club, and yet they still routinely give their best, most proven players – not to mention their loyal paying-customer fans – the middle finger.

Come on.

The Sox could’ve signed Betts. They also could’ve simply not lowballed him after the World Series, when he became the first player in MLB history to win the batting title, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and the championship in the same season. They could’ve kept negotiating when he turned down their pitiful sum in the fall of 2018. Most importantly, they could’ve allowed the extremely logical mantra ‘If you build it, they will come’ to dictate their decision-making, simply realizing that putting a competitive team – with one of the best stars they’ve ever developed – on the field would make them even more money than the abomination they fielded in 2020, not to mention earn them some much-needed goodwill with the locals.

This is a multibillion-dollar organization and its overlords can do whatever they want, so it’s a matter of what they actually want. Look at the Dodgers, who finished the season with $283M in luxury tax allocations. The threshold was $230M; they simply didn’t care, because they want to win.

But at least when it came to Betts, the Sox had legs to stand on, albeit very wobbly ones, like two kids in a trench coat. The upper levels of the farm system were depleted and the payroll was astronomical. Of course, those were problems of their own creation; Dave Dombrowski broke a few eggs to make a championship omelet. They spent and traded because that’s what teams are supposed to do. You don’t get a trophy for having the most well-stocked minor-league pantry, nor do you get one for having the lowest payroll.

With Devers (and Xander Bogaerts), there is absolutely no excuse. The farm system ranked 11th coming into this season, and will likely be even better next year given the rise of prospects such as Ceddanne Rafaela. Excluding yet-to-be-determined options and arbitration salaries, the luxury tax payroll for next year currently sits at around $50M.

There is absolutely no excuse.

The Red Sox are embarrassing. They are absurd. They think that they can do this time and again with no repercussions. They look terrible and they’ve looked terrible in this regard for years, and what’s most astounding is that they truly don’t seem to care that everyone knows what they’re doing. If they do care, they certainly hide it well.

Every time the Sox shun a homegrown star who’s brought them another gleaming trophy, they thumb their noses and then turn around and throw buckets of money at a free agent who’s worse than the player they already had. David Price was a massive overcorrection for Lester. They paid Trevor Story instead of giving Bogaerts a raise. Betts seems irreplaceable, though they could very well throw a zillion dollars at Aaron Judge this season, even though he’ll be 31 next year, is frequently injured, doesn’t hit very well in the postseason, and so on and so forth.

Someone sit this ownership in a room and make them listen to “Under the Sea” on a loop until they understand that the seaweed isn’t, in fact, greener in somebody else’s lake.

Enough is enough.

God forbid, the Sox deviate from this outrageous negotiation tactic just once, and actually offer a player close to what he’s worth. They had the audacity to tell Bogaerts they’d tack on one more year and $30M to his current deal, and used Matt Olson’s Braves’ extension as the basis for their offer to Devers in the spring. Even Gerrit Cole, the overpriced Yankee whom Devers owns on the regular, says he’s a $300M player.

This organization is playing with fire on both sides of the court. They’ve handled business this way enough times for a pattern to be established. Players have seen how they conduct business, and won’t want to sign here, and draft picks will be wary, knowing that even if they make it to the majors, give this organization their all, and make the impossible happen, the front office will say “thanks for the memories,” and then pay some other guy. And fans will eventually walk away. The Sox already had poor attendance numbers this season. Imagine how much worse those numbers will get if they lose Bogaerts and/or Devers after already shipping off Betts less than three years ago. That feels like the point of no return.

What this ownership somehow doesn’t seem to realize is that there is no baseball without fans. In this modern age of sports, the Sox might not think they rely on ticket and concession sales anymore, but technically, they absolutely still do. Because without fans, the Sox have nothing. Brands won’t pay to have their logos all over the storied green interiors of Fenway Park if the arena is empty. A network or streaming platform won’t give them buckets of money to air a game no one is watching. Say goodbye to Shaws, the official supermarket of the Boston Red Sox, Biofreeze, their official fast-acting pain relief solution, and Bigelow tea for those frigid offseason nights; brands only spend money on advertising to acquire and maintain customers if there are any to entice.

Fans are the lifeblood of sports. And especially in Boston, where fans are so loyal that they stuck it out for 86 years, it is incredibly insulting for this team to dare call Red Sox Nation “the best teams in baseball” when they are treated like the steerage passengers on the Titanic.

If the Sox do not wake up soon, fans will abandon this sinking ship.