There is no one like Shohei Ohtani in baseball. There hasn’t been anyone like him in 100 years, since Babe Ruth excelled first as a pitcher and then as a hitter. Ohtani will be able to become a free agent in a year. No one knows what will happen to that, where he might end up and whether or not he’ll stay with the Angels.
Despite all that, he’s another potential free agent for 2023-24 who, because of his age, his history and his deep ties to a storied franchise with a rabid fan base, might make for a more dramatic story.
This is the Dominican Rafael Devers, 26, one of the best young hitters who have worn the Red Sox uniform. But it’s more than that when he deals with third baseman. Mookie Betts, his former teammate, has left Fenway Park and is with the Dodgers. Xander Bogaerts—who had played his entire career in Boston—just signed with the Padres.
Devers would become a free agent after the next season. The Red Sox say they will do everything they can to keep him with a contract extension. And why not? He’s his best player, just like Betts was. He is the cornerstone of their Boston offense, as David Ortiz once was. Devers was on the field at Dodger Stadium alongside Betts and Bogaerts when the Red Sox won their last World Series title in 2018. In 2021, when Boston came within two wins of reaching another Fall Classic, Devers hit five home runs and drove in 12 runs in 11 games that postseason.
That was 14 months ago. But now, Devers appears to be the last of the Mohicans on the Red Sox. It is another reason why the quisqueyano has all the power on his side. He didn’t hit 62 homers last season like Aaron Judge did for the Yankees. Compared to Judge’s, Devers’ numbers were understated in 2022: Twenty-seven homers, 88 RBIs and a .295/.358/.521 slash. But in so many ways, especially because of where Devers plays and Boston’s fan base, the Red Sox can’t afford to lose him … just like the Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Judge.
This said the manager of the Red Sox, the Puerto Rican Alex Cora, about Devers:
“It’s been fun watching him grow. His passion to win is authentic and he takes what he does seriously.”
Fans are serious about watching Devers. The rest of the core of that 2018 team, the best in Red Sox history and which won 108 games in the regular season before going 11-3 in the postseason, is gone. So much has happened lately in Boston that the club’s surprise advance to the 2021 postseason—before the Astros finally eliminated them in the ALCS—seems like a distant memory. Betts did not receive a contract extension and was traded to the Dodgers before the 2020 season. Same with Bogaerts, who is in San Diego now.
Right now, Devers’s situation has been magnified.
Devers is the best player on the Red Sox, the most popular. He is four years younger than Judge and Bogaerts. The Dominican not only has impressive talent, but could also improve with more experience and more plate discipline. And all this means that in the negotiations with the Red Sox, it is he who has all the power.
Red Sox chief executive of baseball operations Chaim Bloom had the following to say to the Boston Globe these days.
“(Giving Devers an extension) is something we’ve wanted to do a lot. We remain hopeful that we can extend it. We’re going to keep trying and hopefully we can align.”
The problem is that everyone knows how crazy free agency has been in the last month. Judge signed a record contract with the Yankees, Bogaerts signed for 11 years with the Padres. Trea Turner will receive more guaranteed money in his deal with the Phillies than Bogaerts. Jacob deGrom left the Mets for a big deal, but the Queens reacted by signing Justin Verlander. And of course, the Mets have just agreed with the Puerto Rican Carlos Correa.
And in that way, the Red Sox are under the microscope with their third baseman. It has been reported that Devers will not negotiate with Boston after the end of 2023 spring training. Suddenly, the Red Sox have just over three months to pursue the long-term services of “Raffy.” He is not yet a free agent. But he feels that way in the Medi Nation
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With Devers and his contract, the Red Sox are under scrutiny