After a frustrating November (and entire regular season), the Boston Red Sox might actually be making meaningful headway on one of their most important offseason tasks.
Marino Pepén recently reported that the Sox are “getting closer” to Rafael Devers’ $300M asking price; the difference between the two sides is now ‘around $50M.’
That may sound like a sizable gap, but in the context of these protracted negotiations, it’s significant progress.
The Sox made Devers a laughable offer last spring based on first baseman Matt Olson’s 8-year, $168M extension with the Atlanta Braves. Olson is an excellent defender (at an easier position), but a vastly inferior hitter and close to three years Devers’ elder. Unsurprisingly, the Sox and Devers were more than $100M apart at the time.
Devers told the Sox that he wouldn’t negotiate in-season, a rule he plans to enforce again this year, but when they resumed discussions after the 2022 campaign, Boston’s idea of an updated offer was still approximately $100M too low. Only in recent weeks have the Sox inched closer to Devers’ asking price. There were reports of a proposal in the $220M vicinity, and now, basic arithmetic indicates they’ve upped the ante to $250M, which would be the biggest contract in franchise history by far.
The Sox have only given out one contract in excess of $200M: they signed David Price to a seven-year deal worth $217M. Not only was it a franchise record, topping Manny Ramirez’s $160M contract, but it was also the richest pitching contract in MLB history at the time.
To date, $300M is a sum only nine MLB players have commanded, but even Devers’ biggest rivals believe he’s worth the money. In July, Gerrit Cole – who’s allowed more home runs to the Sox star than any other pitcher – told the Boston Globe (subscription required) that the cherubic slugger deserves to be in the $300M club with him. At the 2022 All-Star Game, Adrián Beltré told reporters, “He’s better than me.” Rich Hill, who faced Devers before joining him on the Red Sox in 2022, called him a “generational talent” in the making.
The Sox have made an offer in the $300M ballpark once before. After years of lowballing Mookie Betts in extension negotiations, the Sox finally proffered $300M for an undisclosed number of years. By then, it was too little, too late; he turned it down and they traded him to Los Angeles, where he promptly signed a 12-year, $365M extension. During the 2022 season, Betts sat down with Rob Bradford of WEEI and told his side of the story:
"“There was an offer that was put out there and we just declined and we felt, I just wanted to get my value, man. That’s all. Just like any person that lives, they want to get their value, what they’re worth.”"
Perhaps he inspired his former teammate. A month after Betts’ interview, Devers was asked about the Sox’ meager offer a month later. In response, he pointedly said, “I know my value.”
Maybe the Red Sox finally know it, too.