Red Sox, Rafael Devers avoid arbitration with $4.575 million deal for 2021

The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers have avoided salary arbitration, as the two sides reached agreement on a $4.575 million contract for the 2021 season, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand

UPDATE: It’s official now.

Devers, 24, was entering his first season of arbitration eligibility. He was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $6.3 million in 2021.

Had Devers and the Red Sox not settled on a dollar figure by Friday’s deadline, the two sides would have had to appear in front of an arbitrator sometime next month in order to determine the infielder’s salary for the upcoming season.

Prior to Friday’s deadline, Devers had been the only arbitration-eligible player the Sox had yet to come to terms with, as the club signed the likes of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Kevin Plawecki, and Eduardo Rodriguez to contracts in December.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, neither Boston nor Devers’ camp talked about a potential long-term contract extension leading up to Friday’s agreement. The Dominican national’s agent, Nelson Montes de Oca of REP1 Baseball, said as much when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier last week.

“We haven’t talked about 2021 or a multiyear deal right now,” Montes de Oca said. “Right now he’s just concentrated on getting in shape for 2021 and put in the best season and helping the team win. We haven’t talked or thought about any multiyear deal at this point.”

Despite the notion that there have been no talks about an extension to this point, the two sides are free to explore that possibility in the meantime. Though, as noted by Cotillo, “conversations about those types of contracts usually take place before or during spring training and are tabled before the beginning of the season.”

As of this writing, Devers is eligible to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign.

For now, the former top prospect will prepare to embark on his fifth big-league season (fourth full) as he reunites with manager Alex Cora.

According to Speier, Devers is currently working out in Tampa to prepare for the season. The start of spring training is just a few short weeks away, after all.

By reaching an agreement with Devers, the Red Sox — or any players on the team for that matter — won’t have to attend any arbitration hearings this spring for the first time since 2019.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox have yet to talk to Rafael Devers about long-term contract extension, third baseman’s agent says

The Red Sox have yet to engage Rafael Devers about a potential long-term extension, the third baseman’s agent, Nelson Montes de Oca of REP1 Baseball, told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Devers, who turned 24 in October, is about to enter his first season of arbitration eligibility and is on track to reach free agency at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

After he was tendered a contract last month, Devers’ camp and the Red Sox have until this coming Friday to exchange arbitration figures, meaning there is still time — before and after the end of this week — for the two sides to reach agreement on an appropriate salary for the 2021 campaign.

“We haven’t talked about 2021 or a multiyear deal right now,” Montes de Oca told Speier. “Right now he’s just concentrated on getting in shape for 2021 and put in the best season and helping the team win. We haven’t talked or thought about any multiyear deal at this point.”

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million in 2013, Devers is coming off a rather underwhelming 2020 season — his fourth (third full) in the majors — after finishing 12th in American League MVP voting the year before.

Over a team-leading 57 games played, the left-handed hitting infielder slashed .263/.310/.483 with 11 home runs, 16 doubles, and 43 RBI over 57 games and 248 plate appearances. He also committed 14 errors while posting negative-6 defensive runs saved in 475 innings patrolling the hot corner, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Some of those defensive struggles can be linked to a left ankle injury Devers suffered in August, which resulted in him missing a few games.

“That affected his range and throwing mechanics,” writes Speier. “He committed three throwing errors in a game shortly after his return to the field and made nine in total after returning. While there was no structural damage serious enough to keep him out of the lineup, Devers nonetheless struggled through the end of the year.”

Despite dealing with those aforementioned ankle issues towards the latter half of the 2020 season, Devers is apparently on track to be ready for spring training come February. He’s even headed to Tampa Bay later this month to get some work in with a personal trainer.

“He’s 100% now,” Montas de Oca said of his client. “He’s getting ready to have a really good 2021 season. He takes pride on helping the team win and hopefully bringing another championship. He loves that team. He loves the city and loves the fans.”

Back in October, MLB Trade Rumors projected that Devers would earn approximately $3.4 million in his first season of arbitration eligibility. We will have to wait and see if that projection comes to fruition in the coming weeks.

(Photo of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Dustin Pedroia’s Red Sox career could be nearing its conclusion

Dustin Pedroia’s time on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster could be coming to an end relatively soon.

The 37-year-old second baseman was activated from the 60-day injured list along with five others late last month, which brought Boston’s 40-man roster up to 37 players.

Clubs have until this coming Friday, November 20, to protect Rule 5-eiligible minor-leaguers from this year’s Rule 5 Draft, or in other words, add them to their 40-man roster.

As currently constructed, the Sox have three open slots on their 40-man with upwards of 50 prospects in need of Rule-5 protection. Obviously, the math does not check out here, and the majority of those 50-plus minor-leaguers will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft come December.

There are however a select handful of Red Sox prospects who will need to be protected, as they are regarded as some of the more promising young players in the club’s minor-league pipeline.

Left-hander Jay Groome, right-hander Bryan Mata, infielder Hudson Potts, outfielder Jeisson Rosario, right-hander Connor Seabold, and catcher Connor Wong are the six key prospects in this scenario.

Groome and Mata, both of whom signed with the Red Sox in 2016, are regarded by MLB Pipeline as the top two active pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system.

The other four — Potts, Rosario, Seabold, and Wong — have all been acquired by the Sox via trade(s) within the last 12 months, so it’s highly unlikely the club would want to risk losing any of them.

There could be other, lesser-known minor-leaguers the Sox consider worthy of a 40-man roster spot, as was the case with lefty Kyle Hart last year. But, for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that the Red Sox have six players they would like to add to the 40-man with only three vacancies to work with.

This means that, in some capacity, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will presumably look to reshuffle his team’s 40-man roster between now and Friday.

Players who are currently on the 40-man could either get traded, designated, or outrighted within the next five days, but those same players could also help another team if they wind up in the right situation.

There is plenty of risk involved in this process, but there is one route Bloom and Co. could take that could help mitigate that risk just a little bit. That being, take Pedroia, among others off the 40-man roster.

The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham reported last month that Pedroia and the Red Sox “are prepared to talk soon about a mutual understanding that would end his playing career.”

Though WEEI’s Rob Bradford later added on to that report by stating that “nothing” had yet to have been discussed between the two sides, a mutual agreement of some sorts here certainly makes sense from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Pedroia, a former MVP, has played in just nine total games over the last three seasons on account of issues with his left knee. He’s undergone three knee surgeries since 2017.

As he enters the final year of the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed with Boston back in 2013, it appears that the former second-round draft pick will be unable to play in 2021, or again, on account of how inactive he has been recently.

With that in mind, the Sox may look to reach some sort of settlement with Pedroia so that they can get out from some of the $12 million they owe him next year while also freeing up a 40-man roster spot for someone who can consistently contribute.

This is not exactly a fun scenario to consider, as Pedroia has proven to be one of the Red Sox’ undisputed leaders and all-time greats in his 15 or so years with the club, but it may be time to move on and have the four-time Gold Glover transition to a front office or coaching role within the organization, if possible.

Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran addressed this very issue in September, and he emphasized the notion that Pedroia will have a say in what the future holds for him as a Red Sox.

“I don’t think that any one particular roster spot is something I would focus on as a problem and certainly not when it’s Dustin Pedroia,” O’Halloran said. “We’re going to talk to Dustin and he’s obviously going to have the most say in where things go from here. No. 1 is making sure he’s as healthy as he can be for the rest of his life, really. And certainly we want to talk to him and see how he’s feeling and see where he wants to go from here.”

In short, Friday’s Rule 5 deadline will serve as a key indicator for where the Red Sox currently stand with Pedroia and the four-time All-Star’s status moving forward.

Other players are likely to get moved around, too, but Pedroia is without a doubt the most significant figure whose spot on Boston’s 40-man roster could be in jeopardy. We will have to wait and see what Bloom and Co. have in store.

Opinion: Mookie Betts Saying He Thought He Was ‘Going To Be a Red Sox for Life’ Does Not Exactly Add up When Looking Back at His Time in Boston

Before winning his second World Series title in three years and his first as a member of the Dodgers Tuesday night, former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts sat down with former teammate-turned-FOX Sports personality David Ortiz this past weekend.

Among the topics discussed in this virtual interview were Betts’ thoughts on playing in Los Angeles, his approach on and off the field, what he likes the most about his game, and of course, the trade that sent him to the Dodgers in the first place.

“Man, I got to tell you, Mook,” Ortiz said. “It’s hard for me to see you in that Dodgers uniform, but you look good in a Dodgers uniform. Did you ever think you were going to spend the next 12 years wearing that Dodgers uniform?”

Betts, in response, admitted he never thought that was going to happen.

“No,” he said. “I had initially thought that I was going to be a Red Sox for life. But, God always has a plan for things so I was following what he tells me to do.”

Here is the problem with that statement: Betts very well could have remained with the Red Sox for the remainder of his major-league career if he so chose.

Before dealing him to Los Angeles, the Sox made multiple attempts to keep the four-time All-Star in Boston for the foreseeable future.

In 2017, they offered him a five-year, $100 million extension. He rejected it. In 2018, they offered him an eight-year, $200 million extension. He rejected it. In the spring of 2019, they offered him an extension upwards of $300 million over 10 years. He did not reject it, and instead countered with $420 million over 12 years, according to WEEI’s Lou Merloni.

So here we have at least three instances where the Red Sox tried to retain Betts’ services for 2020 and beyond, and by the time we arrive at that third instance, the two sides are an apparent $120 million apart in negotiations.

By making the decision to not commit $400-plus million to one player, the Red Sox found themselves in a position where they essentially had to trade Betts or else they would risk losing him the following winter for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick.

Trading Betts is the choice the Red Sox ultimately made in February, but it is difficult to not think that the 28-year-old could have done more to prevent that from happening.

If at one point in time Betts saw himself a member of the Red Sox for his entire professional career, why not make more of a push to remain with the only organization he had ever known?

If Betts is calling up Jim Rice before the trade and telling him ‘This is my home. I don’t want to go anyplace else,’ why not make more of an effort to see that through?

If Betts never wanted to leave Boston in the first place, why, when discussing the legacies of franchise legends like Ortiz and Carl Yastrzemski last September, say ‘You can be remembered in that same fashion even if you put on a couple different jerseys’ and all but tease the idea of playing for another team relatively soon?

One thing that became apparent in Betts’ final season with the Sox is that he appeared to be all in on becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020 campaign. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit, he likely would have done that. However, due to the financial concerns the pandemic has created across the country, not just in baseball, it’s possible that Betts’ outlook on things changed after he was traded.

On the surface, the 12-year, $365 million extension he inked with the Dodgers seems like one the Red Sox should have been able to afford earlier in the year.

That much may be true, but it’s worth mentioning that Betts signed said extension in late July. That was roughly four months after Major League Baseball had pushed back the start of the season and the owners and players’ association were seemingly at each other’s throats every day in between.

Seeing that turmoil arise between the owners and MLBPA may have forced Betts to settle a little bit. At the end of the day, he still got a lucrative extension that offers long-term security with uncertain times ahead, though it may not be the $400 million-plus deal he was initially hoping for.

Basically, the point here is that if Betts really wanted to be ‘a Red Sox for life,’ he could have made it happen.

It may have taken some sacrifice to do so, and Betts has every right to not do that and instead seek out the biggest payday possible, but when you see guys like Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts sign extensions with the Red Sox for somewhat less than they would have gotten if they were free agents, that says something.

It’s as Barstool Sports‘ Jared Carrabis wrote back in February: “You can’t make it abundantly clear that you will not sign for a cent less than market value, and then say that Boston is your home and that you don’t want to play anywhere else. That’s just not how this works.”

Betts had the chance to stay with the Red Sox in the long-term if he wanted to. He decided that if he was going to remain in Boston, he was going to do so for nothing less than top dollar. That’s fine, but if you are still holding on to the notion that the Red Sox were in the wrong for trading you after making multiple attempts to try to get you to stay, it may be time to move on from the past.