The Boston Red Sox, who seemed to be riding a disappointing offseason to the edge of American League East irrelevance, finally found a foothold Wednesday when they agreed to an 11-year contract extension with star third baseman Rafael Devers, according to multiple reports. The deal reportedly will pay him $331 million to remain in Boston through the 2033 season.
Earlier this week, Devers agreed to a one-year deal for the 2023 season to avoid arbitration, but it was widely known that the Red Sox were eager to sign him for the long term.
That the Red Sox agreed to an extension with a homegrown star will come as a great relief to Boston fans and its front office alike. A month ago, the Red Sox watched shortstop Xander Bogaerts head to the San Diego Padres on a massive 11-year deal of his own, one that will pay him $280 million to play elsewhere despite the Red Sox publicly identifying him as their priority this offseason. Three winters ago, the Red Sox traded another homegrown star, Mookie Betts, to the Los Angeles Dodgers before he could leave in free agency. Since then — and certainly since Bogaerts departed — they had not come close to replacing either’s talent or star power.
And while signing Devers long-term does not improve the 2023 roster, it does represent an unprecedented financial commitment on the part of an ownership group that has seemed reluctant to make one. The value of the deal is more than double the previous largest contract awarded to a position player in franchise history. The biggest, until Wednesday, had been Manny Ramirez’s eight-year, $160 million deal signed in 2000.
In Devers, the Red Sox secure one of the game’s sneakiest superstars, a 26-year-old who seemed likely to spark a massive bidding war had he hit free agency next offseason. He debuted at 20, won the World Series in 2018 and has emerged as one of baseball’s best hitters. Since the start of the 2019 season, only 14 players (including Bogaerts) have accumulated more wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. Only one third baseman, the oft-injured Anthony Rendon of the Los Angeles Angels, has a higher on-base-plus-slugging percentage in that time.
Devers hastened his star turn since the pandemic-shortened year, posting two all-star seasons in which he combined to hit .287 with 65 home runs and an .885 OPS. He now will be the center of Boston’s future, one that will rely heavily on the development of prospects Triston Casas and Marcelo Mayer, both of whom the Red Sox hope can join Devers in their infield of the not-so-distant future.
In the meantime, Devers will anchor a lineup that has reason to expect rebound seasons from injured veterans Kiké Hernández and Trevor Story and has added Japanese star Masataka Yoshida. Former ace Chris Sale missed much of the past three seasons with injuries large and small, but the Red Sox expect him back at full strength.
Devers does not necessarily vault the Red Sox back into the upper echelon of the AL East, where the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles made additions to rosters that fared better than Boston’s in 2022. But he does vault them back to credibility, seemingly signaling that owner John Henry and top baseball executive Chaim Bloom do not intend to remain as conspicuously quiet moving forward.