12:30pm: The Red Sox formally announced that Devers has signed a one-year deal for the 2023 season.
11:37am: The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year, $17.5MM contract with third baseman Rafael Devers, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). That’ll avoid an arbitration hearing for Devers’ final season of eligibility but does not extend the team’s control over the All-Star slugger. He’ll be a free agent next offseason. Devers had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $16.9MM this coming season but will top that mark by $600K. Devers is a client of Rep 1 Baseball.
Devers, 26, has cemented himself as one of the American League’s top hitters over the past several years, hitting at a combined .292/.352/.532 clip with 108 plate appearances in 2228 homers dating back to 2019. Along the way, he’s been named to a pair of All-Star teams and won a Silver Slugger Award.
A long-term extension with Devers has been a priority for Boston’s front office for some time, but a sizable gap between the two parties has remained — and that was before Devers watched several mid-20s free agents ink contracts of 11 or more years in length this offseason. One would imagine that the revitalized trend of contracts reaching or even exceeding ten years in length has only further prompted Devers to ponder what he might be able to earn in an open-market setting.
That said, there’s still ample time for the Red Sox to close the gap in negotiations. The fact that the two parties were able to amicably agree on a one-year compromise without needing to resort to a more contentious arbitration hearing bodes well for the status of talks, to an extent. It also frees the two parties to focus negotiations solely on Devers’ would-be free agent seasons.
Long-term deals of that nature are often left to be discussed in Spring Training, but given Devers’ importance to the Red Sox and the dwindling clock, it’s certainly behoove the front office to take every moment available in order to try to work something out. Boston ostensibly waited until last spring to discuss a long-term pact with Xander Bogaerts but only made an unrealistic one-year extension offer. They broadcast confidence in their ability to ultimately retain Bogaerts up until the final day that he agreed to terms with the Padres on an 11-year, $280MM contract. Certainly, one would imagine Sox brass hopes to avoid a similar sequence with Devers, who’s four years younger than Bogaerts and thus would be positioned all the more favorably in free agency.
However extension talks play out, there’s benefit to the Red Sox in securing this cost certainty on Devers sooner than later. With Devers’ salary locked in, the Sox are now projected for an Opening Day payroll just shy of $187MM, per Roster Resource. Their projected $212.6MM luxury-tax ledger sits more than $20MM shy of the $233MM first tier of penalization. Boston quite arguably still has needs behind the plate, in the rotation and on the bench, and knowing the exact price point on Devers helps chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and his staff gain a better picture of just how many resources are available before any concerns pertaining to the luxury tax — if they exist at all — need to be considered. Boston would be a second-time luxury offender upon exceeding the tax threshold in 2023.