Third baseman Rafael Devers is set to become a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future in Boston is still very much unknown at this time. Devers did receive some clarity on his contract status for this season, as both he and the Sox settled before an arbitration meeting this week. But now that Devers has a deal for 2023, the attention shifts to what will happen after this season.
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Devers and the Sox
On Tuesday, it was reported by numerous outlets that Rafael Devers and the Red Sox avoided arbitration for the 2023 season. Per reports, Devers will be paid $17.5 million for the upcoming season. The 2023 campaign marks Devers’ final season of controllability, as the 26-year-old is set to become a free agent after this season.
In terms of overall production, it’s hard to argue that Devers is not worth a massive contract. At 26 years of old, Devers has already compiled an impressive set of accolades: two All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger, and a World Series title in 2018 with Boston.
The power-hitting Devers possesses an impressive amount of power, and can punish pitches in virtually any part of the strike zone. That shouldn’t shock much of anyone, at least when looking at his stats. Over the past three seasons, Devers has cracked 76 home runs and the second-most extra base hits in baseball. Devers is not just one of the league’s best third basemen; he’s one of the best 15-20 hitters in the league.
Sure, Devers does have his defensive inefficiencies. At 240 lbs., Devers doesn’t have great range at the position and possesses an average arm. At some point in the future, a move off the position feels inevitable. Yet, the third baseman has turned himself into an elite threat at the place and should age gracefully offensively. So why hasn’t Boston locked Devers up to a long-term deal yet?
What does the future hold?
If you have been following the Red Sox over the past few seasons, you’re probably well-aware of the high-profile departures that have taken place. Three years ago, the Red Sox shipped out Mookie Betts in deal that has turned into a miss for the franchise. A couple of months later, Andrew Benintendi was dealt to Kansas City.
This past winter, Xander Bogaerts opted out of his deal with the Sox and inked a massive deal with the Padres. There is a strong case to be made that Boston dodged a bullet on that one, considering that Bogaerts signed a deal that will keep the former Red Sox infielder contracted until his early 40s. Figure that with the presence of Trevor Story, and it did make some degree of sense that the Sox were willing to let him go.
However, the lack of reciprocal moves — outside of the aforementioned Story — over the past three seasons has left the big-market club in a spot that the Sox have rarely been in: a rebuild. Boston does have a decent farm system that could make this rebuild somewhat short, headlined by Marcelo Mayer, Bryan Mata, and Blaze Jordan. But, the Sox don’t have someone in the farm that could replace Devers. And given how young the slugger is, letting Devers walk could backfire in a big way for Boston.
Obviously, price will be the dictating factor for a Devers/Red Sox deal. But now that Devers has entered the final year of controllability, it’s quite difficult to envision the third baseman ink a deal prior to November. A massive amount of money was handed out this winter, and at 26-year-old, it’s hard not to see a scenario in which a team pays in excess of $250 million to one of the best potential free agents and someone who could be in the middle of a lineup for the next decade. If Boston is not ready to meet that price, the Sox need to be ready to not lose its best hitter for nothing.