Red Sox star third baseman Rafael Devers recently rejected an extension offer from the team, reports Héctor Gómez of Z101 (Twitter link). Gomez adds that Boston’s offer to Devers topped the $124MM deal Jose Ramirez signed with the Guardians. Further specifics of the offer aren’t known, but Chris Cotillo of MassLive characterizes the sides as being “very far” apart.
Both Gómez and Cotillo suggest it’s unlikely there’ll be any more discussions before the Red Sox open the season on Friday against the Yankees. Devers has previously suggested he won’t entertain an extension in-season. That seemingly sets him up to play out this season on an $11.2MM salary, to which he and the Sox agreed last month to avoid an arbitration hearing.
It stands to reason the Boston front office will take a crack at extending Devers next winter, at the very least. He’s controllable via arbitration for another season beyond this one. By next offseason, the reigning AL Silver Slugger at third base will have banked over $16MM in career earnings. Barring has significant injury, he’ll be in line for a rather notable raise on this season’s salary during his final arbitration year before hitting free agency in advance of his age-27 campaign.
That’s all to say Devers has little pressure to accept a significant discount. The Red Sox certainly won’t put forth a market-value offer two years in advance of free agency, but keeping him in the fold long-term would require one of the biggest investments in the history of that service bucket. The Braves signed first baseman Matt Olson — who also has four-plus service years — to an eight-year, $168MM extension last month. Only Joey Votto (ten years, $225MM) and Giancarlo Stanton (13 years, $325MM) have topped Olson’s deal among players with between four and five years of service.
Olson was projected for a $12MM arbitration salary before signing his extension, not too dissimilar from Devers’ current mark. He and Devers have family similar numbers going back three seasons. Olson owns a .257/.354/.522 line since the start of 2019; Devers is a .290/.350/.537 hitter in that time. The latter hits for a better average, while Olson draws significantly more walks. Olson has been 34 percentage points above average by measure of wRC+, while Devers checks in 29 points above par.
Obviously, Olson and Devers don’t make for an apples-to-apples comparison. Devers plays a more demanding position, but he rates as one of the league’s worst defensive third basemen. Olson plays at the furthest position down the defensive spectrum, but he’s perhaps the game’s best gloveman at first base. One could argue that Olson’s the most valuable all-around player, but Devers is two and a half years younger. Devers’ camp at Rep 1 Baseball may argue for a deal that exceeds Olson’s in length and overall guarantee, making it unsurprising that “merely” topping the $124MM guaranteed to Ramírez wouldn’t be sufficient. (To be clear, it’s unknown how close the Red Sox’s offer to Devers was to Ramírez’s number).
Regardless of whether Boston and Devers eventually work something out long-term, he’ll be around for the next two seasons. That’s not necessarily the case for shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who can opt out of the remaining three years and $60MM on his deal after this season. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe spoke with Boagerts on Monday. The star shortstop told Speier he and the club have had talks this spring but said he didn’t anticipate an extension being hammered out in the coming days. Like Devers, Bogaerts suggested he was uninterested in continuing negotiations once the season was underway.
Bogaerts would hit the open market in advance of his age-30 season and seems likely to handily top $60MM barring an unexpected downturn in performance or injury. The Sox added an All-Star potential alternative last month when they signed Trevor Story to a six-year, $140MM deal. The longtime Rockie agreed to play second base this season in deference to Boagerts. Boston could keep him at the keystone if they get a long-term deal with Bogaerts done, but Story could also kick back to his old position in 2023 if the Sox’s incumbent shortstop heads elsewhere.