Imagining the Red Sox without Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 and Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox pose for a photograph before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Xander Bogaerts #2 and Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox pose for a photograph before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

A Red Sox Haloween nightmare: No Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers

Changes are in the air for the Boston Red Sox as they will attempt to make the team relevant in the American League East.

But exactly what changes will take place are yet unknown. Pitching is undoubtedly critical, and if their president of baseball operations continues to scour the waiver wire for reinforcements, that just won’t cut it.

The overriding theme of the past season was Xander Bogaerts’ future and the anticipated opt-out of the team-friendly extension he initiated in 2019. Management has made functionary comments designed to mollify Red Sox Nation, but it will come down to bang for the buck and just what level of fiscal sincerity management has.

In the contractual waiting room is Rafael Devers. The just-turned-26 third baseman has one more season of contractual servitude before experiencing the fiscal joys of free agency. The numbers show Devers is on the cusp of a possible team-eclipsing record haul, but as usual, the organization is lowballing a homegrown star right out the door.

Let’s assume the worst for a moment: Bogaerts and Devers both leave this offseason, the former via opt-out, the latter by trade. The PR nightmare that follows will ensure that social media, print media, and the local watering holes will explode with invectives directed towards Chaim Bloom, ownership, and anyone mentioned in the corporate structure. The Mookie Betts brouhaha will pale in comparison; there are no flimsy excuses about payroll and prospects this time.

The left side of the infield gets vaporized. Bogaerts gets a wheelbarrow full of money from the Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, or some other team smart enough to see his value, and management – tired of the drama – trades Devers for an uneven return à la the Betts trade.

Then what? Let’s take a look at the roster as currently constructed. The shortstop situation is the simplest of solutions since the Red Sox handed Trevor Story a six-year deal at $140M last year rather than simply giving Bogaerts a raise, which would’ve cost significantly less. Story had two significant contributions in 2022 – excellent defense and a pile of missed games, and Story finished with a 100 wRC+. Disappointing but certainly not a Pablo Sandoval-esque debacle.

What happens at second base?

First in line on the depth chart would be Christian Arroyo, who is under club control through 2025, but whose career is frequently in crisis due to IL visits. In 2022, his grand total was a meager 87 games, but .286/.322/.414 and six homers are encouraging. Good luck getting 140 games, though.

Next up would be Enrique Hernández. What happens when you hit .222 and 75 wRC+ over 93 games? You get a $10M contract extension! If Hernández fell under the Mendoza Line, he may have been offered a two-year extension. He could also be needed in the outfield, as Jarren Duran has proven himself to be a liability pretty much everywhere.

One prospect from the Betts trade, Jeter Downs, debuted in 2022. He only played 56 innings – forgettable innings – at second base. While it’s a small sample size, the defensive results were disappointing, and the offensive results were tragic.

Bobby Dalbec is still potentially in the mix, which speaks to the desperation and absurdity of the current roster. If Dalbec gets another shot, it will be at third base – a return to his baseball roots after wandering around the diamond.

The prospect pool offers an intriguing possibility in Ceddanne Rafaela, though the breakout star of the Sox system is only 22 and hasn’t reached Triple-A yet. Desperation could speed things along, though that would suggest actual urgency, an emotion not displayed by this organization in some time.

Then there are the trade winds and free-agent signings. Boston could nab a second baseman or shortstop for a quick fix, and anchoring Story at second base would flip everything around. A merry-go-round of roster confusion.

Third base is another place where a few of the previously mentioned could find a home. However, Arroyo, Hernandez, and Dalbec combined barely have 100 big-league appearances at third. None of them even comes close to matching Devers’ offensive production, either.

The message is clear that the most viable and sensible option is to keep what they have. Ownership has said the “right” things to keep the hounds at bay for now, but they haven’t put their money where their mouths are.

The loss of Bogaerts is manageable but degrades your team. A loss of both Devers and Bogaerts will result in a power outage that will make this team as potent as a crew of children swinging rubber bats. The roster has substandard replacements either on the MLB 26-man or unproven in the minors.

If the left side shatters, it reverberates to the right side, which does have promise and stability at first base. Triston Casas already showed enough to indicate he can lock down first base, a duty the youngster can share with veteran Eric Hosmer. But as previously mentioned, if Story shifts to short, the second base problem intensifies. It’s also unclear if Story’s arm can even handle shortstop anymore.

Take Devers and Bogaerts out of the equation for 2023 and an infield of possibly Dalbec, Story, Arroyo, and Hosmer/Casas becomes Boston’s future. Not a pleasant picture from my perspective. Dipping into free agency, they could try to grab Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, or Dansby, but that adventurism is foolish since it would be a fiscal wash compared to Bogaerts.

Next. Vázquez has harsh words for Red Sox after trade. dark

The Red Sox are trapped in the left-side infield situation, spending on existing or imported talent that will limit offensive losses. I expect – and this is a leap of faith – management will do the right and intelligent thing by signing Bogaerts. Then they can deal with the Devers situation during 2023.