A big gap remains between Red Sox and Rafael Devers in extension talks

The status of the contracts Xander Bogaerts Y rafael devers they’ve been on the minds of Red Sox fans since at least last spring training. The club made unsuccessful attempts to renew both players in March. Those efforts were put on hold for the season, but with the offseason approaching, they’re sure to reignite discussions.

Director of baseball Chaim Bloom has already said working on a new deal with Bogaerts before opting out (which he can formally do after the World Series) is a “top priority” this month. There’s less immediate urgency with Devers, who is still a year away from the open market, but there’s no question Boston’s front office will be in contact with the third-base camp in Rep 1 Baseball all winter.

Earlier this week, reporter Yancen Pujols tweeted the team was making a renewed effort at an extension. Later reports from Boston characterized a visit by assistant general manager Eddie Romero to Devers in his native Dominican Republic as a more typical offseason record (links via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and MassLive’s Chris Cotillo). There was no question the Sox would make a run at extending Devers at some point this winter, but it’s unclear how much to make of Romero’s record.

Regardless of the specific nature of the meeting between Romero and Devers, Jon Heyman of the New York Post writes tonight that the sides have only recently reopened talks. Heyman reports that Boston has put in an offer of $200 million or more, but suggests that there is still a noticeable gap between the sides. According to Heyman, Devers’ group is seeking a ten-plus-year deal worth at least $300 million.

During spring training, the Red Sox reportedly used the eight-year, $168 million extension signed by the Braves’ first baseman. matt olson as a viable comparison in conversations. The sides were well apart at the time, though Devers’ specific asking price was unclear. Boston has increased its offer on the heels of another very strong season from Devers, but the two-time All-Star has increased his clout after a breakout year that brought him closer to free agency.

In his 25-year campaign, Devers appeared in 141 games and amassed 614 plate appearances. He hit 27 home runs and hit a .295/.358/.521 slash line. Those cut stats are in line with his numbers in recent seasons, but Devers’ production was arguably the best of his career in the context of a league-wide offensive downturn. By the wRC+ measure (which is adjusted annually for league and stadium environment), he was 41 percentage points better than an average hitter. That’s a career best for him, and he ranked in the top 20 hitters in the game (minimum 500 plate appearances).

With another big season under his belt, Devers may feel even more comfortable raising a lofty request in extension talks. He made $11.2MM this year and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a salary in the range of $16.9MM next season if he goes through his final year of arbitration. He is currently slated to be one of the top talents in the 2023-24 free agent class, possibly second behind shōhei ohtani.

With the market open 12 months, Devers’ camp may look to the biggest free agent deals in MLB history to establish his asking price. A projected $16.9MM officiating salary is obviously below his free agent market value, but will secure a stronger payday before he hits the open market. The Red Sox can perhaps hope to price in a marginal discount to hedge against the possibility of Devers having a disappointing or injury-plagued platform year, but the star third baseman has a significant amount of sway in the conversations.

This summer, the Braves signed their All-Star third baseman, austin riley, to an extension of 10 years and $212 million. Riley owned a .301/.360/.604 line at the time of that deal, but it serves as a generally similar comparison as a hitting third baseman. However, Riley’s contract was signed midway through his third full MLB season and he purchased his final three years of arbitration eligibility. With just one arbitration season remaining, Devers has a lot more sway in extension talks. It’s no surprise that his replays aim much higher than Riley’s range.

At the same time, it’s easy to understand why the Red Sox might not be eager to dole out a deal that tops $300 million. That’s a threshold reached just nine times in MLB history. mookie betting, mike trout, Francis Lindor, Fernando Tatis Jr. Y Giancarlo Stanton got there in extensions, while bryce harp, corey seager, Gerrit Cabbage Y Manny Machado reached or surpassed the marker in free agent deals.

Devers turned 26 earlier in the week and is on track to hit free agency as his 27-year-old season begins. That’s a year older than Machado and Harper during the 2018-19 offseason, but a year younger than Seager last winter. Overall, that youth serves Devers well in his effort to land a decade-long commitment. It’s rare to see teams commit to players in their 30s, but a long deal is more acceptable for players coming to market in their mid-20s.

At the same time, it could be argued that all three players were safer long-term bets than Devers. Harper had a stronger offensive record that included a monster 2015 showing to earn an MVP. Machado had hit .297/.367/.538 during his year on the platform and was a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman who could play shortstop if needed. Seager is a full-time shortstop who hit .306/.394/.521 during his senior year in Los Angeles. All three players also benefited from a bidding war on the open market.

That was not the case for Betts and Lindor, each of whom signed extensions in excess of $300MM with between five and six years of service. However, both players had much more defensive value than Devers. Betts is one of the best outfielders in the game, and Lindor is arguably the best shortstop in the game.

Devers, by contrast, comes with his share of defensive question marks. He has played almost exclusively third base in the majors, but has always been regarded as a leadoff hitter. There has been some trepidation since his time as a prospect about how long he might stay in the hot corner, and that has largely borne out in his defensive metrics as a major leaguer. He is rated as a below-average defender as measured by defensive runs saved each season of his career. Statcast gave him an excellent outlier defensive rating in 2019, but has otherwise criticized his work as well. Last season, he rated six runs below average as measured by DRS and two runs below par as measured by Statcast.

While there’s no indication the Red Sox want to get Devers out of the hot corner right away, it’s fair to wonder how deep into a long-term deal he can stay there. He certainly has the offensive aptitude to continue to play every day as a first baseman or designated hitter, but a move lower down the defensive spectrum would reduce some of the flexibility of the team’s roster around him.

That’s not to say Devers isn’t an excellent player, but investments of more than $300 million have generally been reserved for players with more defensive value or an established MVP-caliber offensive season. Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million extension during the 2014-15 offseason may be the best example for the Devers camp, but Stanton got that deal after a .288/.395/.555 performance in one of the friendlier stadiums for the game’s pitchers. environments.

Given recent comparable players, it’s no wonder Devers and his crew wanted to easily top $200 million, while the Red Sox would balk at asking for more than $300 million. Obviously, there is quite a bit of ground between those extremes. Whether the sides can find a mutually agreeable price sometime over the next six months will be one of the key stories of Boston’s offseason.

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