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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, June 13, 2024

Extra Innings: Rafael Devers saves the Red Sox

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On Jan. 11, the Red Sox finalized a massive 11-year, $331 million contract extension with star third baseman Rafael Devers. It’s a big move for Boston, as Devers is one of the game’s best hitters. But the extension is more important than one player. It gives Red Sox fans some confidence in a front office that has made several questionable moves lately, and it probably saved Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom’s career. 

While the deal has ramifications beyond Devers, it’s still worth mentioning how good he is. He’s been an All-Star in his last two seasons, hitting to an .885 OPS over that span with 65 homers, 79 doubles and 201 RBIs. Analytics love him, too — he ranked in the 92nd percentile or higher in average exit velocity, max exit velocity and hard-hit rate last season. 

Even with Devers, the Red Sox will probably miss the playoffs this season. However, while the extension might not mean much for the 2o23 team, it’s vitally important to the franchise due to the front office’s incompetence in recent years. The worst example came in February 2020 when the Sox got absolutely fleeced by the Dodgers, giving up superstar Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. As a Dodger, Betts has hit to an .876 OPS, won two Gold Gloves and generated 14.2 wins above replacement in 319 games. Verdugo, the only one who’s started consistently, has a .768 OPS and 5.5 WAR in 351 games in Boston, and Downs, considered the key piece of the deal for the Sox, was designated for assignment on Dec. 15 and picked up by the Nationals. 

Granted, Betts was asking for big money. But his career stats through 2019 make it abundantly clear that he was worth it. In Boston, he slashed .301/.374/.519, produced 42.2 WAR and won four Gold Gloves in right field. In 2018, he hit an absurd .346/.438/.640 and generated 10.7 WAR, more than Aaron Judge did last year en route to winning American League MVP. He’s worth every penny of the 12-year, $365 million contract he got from Los Angeles, an offer he said he would have accepted in Boston. 

The trade was a crushing blow to Red Sox fans. As a general rule, letting home-grown generational talents leave town doesn’t sit well with any fanbase. And the fans were disappointed again in December when shortstop Xander Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres. While the Sox were interested in re-signing Bogaerts, who had spent his entire career in Boston, they were outbid and opted not to match the Padres offer, a decision which raised even more doubt in Bloom. He claimed he had “a couple of regrets,” but in the end, Boston had lost yet another home-grown star. 

At this point, there was understandable skepticism over Bloom’s ability to keep Devers at home. The Betts trade still stings, and Bogaerts’ departure left many doubting the team’s commitment to winning. The extension couldn’t have come at a better time for a front office that was gasping for air. 

Rafael Devers saved Chaim Bloom’s neck, but more importantly, his extension proves the Red Sox’ willingness to spend, a fact which was much in doubt given the departures of Betts and Bogaerts, and it gives the team a star to build around. Devers won’t make the Red Sox a playoff team this year, and Bloom still has a lot to answer for, but this extension gives the fans some evidence that the team wants to win.