The Boston Red Sox have gotten a deal done with a young, homegrown superstar and their fans can breathe a little sigh of relief. After seeing Mookie Betts traded -- just one season removed from an MVP and World Series title -- and then Xander Bogaerts sign with the Padres, things were starting to look pretty murky with Rafael Devers.
You see, Devers, like Betts was, is just one year away from free agency. If he headed into the 2023 season without an extension, he would be dealing with questions all year like Bogaerts did in 2022. And if he reached free agency, some other team might've handed Devers a ridiculous offer he couldn't -- or wouldn't want to -- turn down.
Surely, this was all on the mind of the Red Sox front office and frontman Chaim Bloom when they offered 11 years and $331 million, making Devers the highest-paid Red Sox player ever.
Naturally, the attention now turns toward the rest of the team.
In terms of 2023 contention, not much changes. They already had Devers for this upcoming season. Arguments could be made to give them a slight bump with this deal because Devers should be in much better headspace with the comfort of an 11-year deal versus having to deal with impending free agency. Then again, one could also point to Aaron Judge's 2022 season as an illustration of how sometimes staring at free agency can motivate players into their best work. It's hard to tell and mileage varies player to player, but an extension doesn't really move the needle much for the current group's chances at contention.
No, the long-term implications are where this deal changes the calculus for the Red Sox.
Devers is a centerpiece-type player with top-five MVP upside. He's heading toward his age-26 season, so there's an awful lot of prime left in him. It's feasible for him to be their best player for the next 6-8 years.
Not only that, but had the Red Sox traded Devers or simply let him walk after the season, a rebuild might've been right around the corner. They just wouldn't have had many foundational pieces in place, not to mention how much faith the fan base would have lost in the front office. Here develops a ripple effect: top free agents want to go to teams that are going to win, and it's easier to win with top free agents.
They still don't have a ton of foundations pieces, as Devers is only one player, but there's at least hope for the team to avoid a teardown.
- Devers is 26.
- Shortstop Trevor Story is 30 and locked up through 2027.
- Newly-signed outfielder Masataka Yoshida is 29 and has a five-year deal.
- Outfielder Alex Verdugo is 27 and has two years until free agency.
Perhaps they find longer-term fits for pitchers Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and/or Nick Pivetta. Maybe Bobby Dalbec and/or Triston Casas join the fray.
Regardless, we can easily see that it was looking thin without Devers and that he makes things look a lot better. In the short-term, older veterans like Chris Sale, Justin Turner, Corey Kluber and Kenley Jansen can help keep them afloat while the front office looks to keep building the farm system (ranked 11th of 30 teams by Baseball America in August) to a point that it bears fruit at the big-league level -- via direct impact with prospects becoming stars or by trading prospect currency for established big-league talent.
Having Devers around long-term helps make Boston a more attractive free-agent destination these next few years, too. Not only is there an incumbent star on a huge deal, but this front office has finally shown it'll actually go the way on these types of deals.
It shouldn't hamper them for other big free agent deals, either. Even with Devers, the Red Sox currently don't look to have a payroll over $150 million in any season past 2024 and their financial wherewithal says they could easily spend well into the 200s.
The bottom line is that while this is certainly a good deal for the Red Sox for 2023, it was much more about the future years with rippling impact that goes far beyond Devers' individual, on-field production. It was a huge signing for this front office -- and a much-needed one.