Boston Red Sox future depends on Xander Bogaerts & Rafael Devers decisions

Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated by Rafael Devers #11 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated by Rafael Devers #11 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox, just like every other team in the MLB currently, are stuck waiting out the MLB lockout. But that doesn’t mean the team is just sitting at home, kicking their feet up and watching the NFL Playoffs.

Nope, and quite frankly, it would be an embarrassment if they were. That’s because the Sox have a lot of work left to accomplish this offseason. Whenever the lockout ends, Boston is going to enter a pivotal stretch that will help determine what direction this franchise is headed in over the next few years.

Work still needs to be done in free agency, and quite frankly, the early returns were very disappointing. The team still needs to add another outfielder after trading away one of their starters, Hunter Renfroe, for virtually nothing. And despite adding some more arms in Michael Wacha, James Paxton, and Rich Hill, none of those guys can be relied upon for consistent production, making it likely there will still be more pitching help brought in too.

The Red Sox have some things to figure out in free agency, but their two biggest decisions revolve around players already on their roster, and that would be Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. Both could be set to hit free agency within the next two years, but the front office has shown no urgency to lock them up to new deals. These two decisions will single-handedly determine where this team is going, and the front office needs to have a plan for when the lockout ends.

The Boston Red Sox need to figure out what they are doing with Xander Bogaerts & Rafael Devers

Pretty much anything is on the table when it comes to Bogaerts and Devers. The Sox shortstop-third base duo are the two best players on Boston’s roster, but their futures with the team are seemingly up in the air. Bogaerts can opt out of his current deal after the 2022 season (and has stated that he will do so) while Devers has one season left of arbitration before he can hit free agency in 2024.

Of the two, Bogaerts seems to be the more pressing issue here. Bogaerts 6 year, $120 million contract was a bargain when he signed in back in 2019, and he has continued to play at an extremely high level since then. Bogaerts has said he’s open to signing an extension with the Boston Red Sox, but even if he doesn’t, he’s positioned himself well to cash in if he hits free agency.

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Heading into the offseason, it seemed like a no-brainer to extend Bogaerts. He didn’t have his most statistically dominant season in 2021 (.295 AVG., 23 HR, 79 RBI) but he’s a steady presence in a lineup with some big bats, and he has a knack for coming up big in the postseason too.

But Bogaerts hasn’t been a sure thing with his glove at shortstop. There has been discussion of moving Bogaerts somewhere else on the diamond, such as second base, to open up a hole at shortstop. This could open up a spot for a big name free agent such as Carlos Correa, giving the team their long-term answer at shortstop. Correa is two years younger than Bogaerts, and has proven to be a much better fielder than Bogaerts while being pretty equal to him at the plate.

If the team were to sign Correa, it would pretty much ensure that 2022 would be Bogaerts’ last with Boston considering Correa is looking for a boatload of money in free agency. A move like this doesn’t seem too likely considering the team wouldn’t shell out a ton of money to extend Mookie Betts, and even then it doesn’t really move the needle in terms of championship contention unless you somehow find a way to keep Bogaerts around past 2022.

If Spring Training were to happen (again, it’s up in the air due to the lockout), I would bet that’s when Bogaerts and the front office would come together to try to hammer out a deal. President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom has proven to be quite stingy with his checkbook so far, and I can’t see him paying Correa when he can get Bogaerts for cheaper. Bogaerts will probably still stick around, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to second base at some point too.

On the other hand, there’s Devers, who has become a monster with his bat and a problem with his glove. Devers had arguably his most impressive season at the plate (.279 AVG., 38 HR, 113 RBI), but his numerous miscues in the field continue to hamper him. Devers finds himself in a strikingly similar position to Bogaerts, as he is coming up for an extension, and could be set for a position change in the near future.

The thing is, Devers still has another year of arbitration left, which decreases the front office’s urgency to get a deal done. His salary for 2022 is already set at $10.75 million, and they could realistically get another year of Devers playing on an extremely cheap contract in 2023 if they hold off on extending him. But then you run the risk of him setting his eyes on free agency and turning down future extensions in order to test the market.

I don’t think that the Devers situation will be figured out until the Boston Red Sox decide what they are going to do with Bogaerts first. Assuming he is willing to negotiate, it seems likely the front office would do what needs to be done to hold onto Devers. He’s already proven to be one of the best left handed hitters in the game, and he’s still just 25 years old.

Devers fielding issues still exist, but it really might be an issue for just one more season. J.D. Martinez opted into the final year of his deal early in the offseason, but after that the team could just opt to run Devers as their designated hitter, rather than trying to find him a new position. They could try him at first base, but there isn’t really anything that suggests Devers would be any more successful there than he has been at third base.

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The Boston Red Sox have a pair of huge decisions to make with their two best players, and they will ultimately shape the future of this franchise. Do you decide to extend both Bogaerts and Devers, one of them, or neither of them? And even if you do, will you change their position or leave them put? If you change their position, who takes their spot? And if you leave them, what do you do with the cast of prospects who have their eyes set on making the major league team?

On the surface, these two decisions seem very simple, but a deeper dive shows just how important they are. Bogaerts and Devers are the faces of the franchise right now, but it’s up to the front office to decide if that’s going to be the case for the future as well. Whatever happens, it’s clear that when the offseason resumes, the Boston Red Sox are going to find themselves in a pivotal moment, and the decisions they make will determine what the future holds for them.