Rafael Devers’ contract extension unlikely, if recent Red Sox history is any indication

Eduardo Rodriguez’s comments on Monday are consistent with words the Mookie Betts once said that many Red Sox players haven’t said before, but they definitely wanted to.

It boils down to this: The Red Sox didn’t want to pay them a fair wage in the market, so they took their services elsewhere.

It’s that simple, and the story is likely to continue as Xander Bogaerts is expected to pull out of his contract after 2022 and Rafael Devers is set to arrive at free agency after 2023.

“What do you prefer, 77 or 18?” Rodriguez asked a reporter who wondered if he had considered Sox’s eligible $18.4 million bid before accepting the Tigers’ $77 million bid. “Just being honest.”

Sure, Davers is listening. And after the Rays signed 20-year-old Wander Franco for an 11-year, $182 million extension despite only having half a season in the major leagues, Devers must wonder if he’ll make the money he deserves. In Boston or if he’s going to hit the road, too.

During his time in Boston, Bates made it clear that he wouldn’t sign for anything less than it was worth.

John Lester didn’t want to play for Boston for a fraction of his value either.

The list continues as players who were once beloved Red Sox icons choose to pursue their actual value rather than sign an opponent in their hometown.

Within the current ownership pool, signing players with a discount in their hometown are just the only extensions that get signed. It’s a topic that comes up a lot, especially as the team continues to develop star players but fails to lock them up.

That the Bogarts have stayed in the Red Sox costume is testament to his willingness to play here, even at a discount. He signed a $20 million-a-year extension when he was clearly worth more, as we’ll soon see when similar players, Carlos Correa and Cory Seger, likely score $300 million deals in free agency this winter.

Bogart can’t cry poor with his $120 million extension, and he can, and likely choose, to pull out of the last three years after 2022 for a bigger contract going forward. But the fact remains: He left a lot of money on the table to stay in Boston.

The story goes back to Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz as well.

Pedroia never earned more than $16 million in a season and averaged about $13 million a year to stay in Boston throughout his career, though his contemporary, Robinson Cano, turned down the opportunity to stay with the Yankees and instead signed with the Mariners to earn $24 million a year. Until 2023.

Ortiz, one of the greatest hitters of his generation, went on to sign short-term deals to stay in Boston until his retirement. In 2018, two years after Ortiz earned $16 million, his highest career salary, while leading major corporations with a 1,021 OPS on his way to retirement, the Red Sox signed a similar replacement, JD Martinez, paying him $24 million annually.

Sox have offered fair market contracts before, but rarely with their buddies. They signed big deals with Manny Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Karl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, David Price and Martinez, among others and established themselves with other franchises first.

How does this happen? Why is this one of the richest franchises in professional sports with a history of forcing its best advanced players to sign at a discount or get in the way?

It’s just business, as Bates always said. No hard feelings.

Which is why no one should fault Davers if he stands up to his position and refuses to sign a bargain deal.

He’s one of only 14 players in this millennium to reach 100 players with an OPS-plus of at least 120 players before he turns 25. The list is impressive: Devers, Ronaldo Acuna Jr., Cody Bellinger, Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Prince Felder, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, Eric Chavez, Troy Glaus and Alex Rodriguez.

Harper and Trout on the Hall of Fame tracks. Cabrera and Pujols are the number one Hall of Famers ballot holders. Rodriguez would be not for recognized steroid use. Stanton, Fielder, Glaus and Chavez are not Hall of Famers but they are next level very good players. Dunn is the only good and not so great player in the group.

If the Red Sox wanted to keep a player on a done roster, they would have to pay. And recent history within this property group indicates that it is unlikely to happen.

It’s not that Sox is cheap. Until 2021, they had payrolls that ranked among the top six MLB rosters each year. Their $180 million payroll in 2021 ranked eighth.

But under Chaim Bloom, who learned things in the Rays front office, the Sox have often been compared to their Tampa rivals.

If the Sox is indeed using Rays as a model, they are more likely to sign Triston Casas to a contract extension than Devers.


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