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What A Difference A Deal Makes
For about 36 hours before the national reporters broke the news, the little birds had started chirping and it seemed like the Rafael Devers contract extension was actually happening. A few weeks ago I wrote that a Devers deal would feel like a defibrillator jolt, and at least for me, it has been.
You can tell yourself not to get pre-mad a million times, but as all the top free agents came off the board, and Devers remained unsigned, the frustration was coming to a boil.
Alas, we’ve found out that the Sox sent a contingent to the Dominican on December 14th, offered Devers over $300M, and between that point and New Year’s Eve the two sides hammered out the final details.
This deal didn’t change where the team stood talent-wise for 2023, but with Devers locked in, it feels like a thick fog blanketing everything has lifted, and the vision is back in focus. Before Trevor Story’s UCL surgery — which will likely keep him out until mid-July — 2023 was likely going to be a rock fight for the final wild card spot, a fight the Red Sox should still be in. Things are going to have to break right, as always, but it’s easier to enjoy these upcoming battles not having to worry about Devers’ contract or, really, the organization’s willingness or ability to finalize a contract with a young star that they actually want.
Two weeks before Mookie Betts was traded, I wrote that in my opinion the top priority for the Red Sox should be signing Rafael Devers to a contract extension, a sentiment I then repeated for the following 35 months.
I thought Betts had about a 5% chance of re-signing with Boston, Bogaerts about a 50% chance, and I always felt like Devers was closer to 90%... he had to be the guy to get done. FSG and Bloom took their sweet time, but finally delivered on that.
With a cornerstone player in place, I hope this locks the Red Sox leadership in for the long haul. The Casas/Bello first wave is arriving, Rafaela/Mata/Walter is getting close, Mayer/Bleis/Yorke etc. are on the horizon. No matter how 2023 plays out, the plan should be stuck to with conviction. Keep developing, graduating prospects, building the farm, and using prospects in trades for long-term assets. With Devers, the farm system rolling, and some money freed up next winter (projected to be about $50M), and a lot freed up after 2024 (well over $100M), you just keep feeding the monster gearing up for the next true championship caliber roster.
Just my own feeling, but it already seems like this year’s Red Sox team is going to have a completely different vibe than last year. Who knows how the mood in the clubhouse was, but publicly, at least, it was off-putting just how much it came across like the players were miserable all season. Contract issues, trade gripes, poor play, and every other little thing just seemed to have the leaders of the team acting like Eeyore with a rain cloud overhead. Declining play from longstanding team leadership is tough to navigate when things are going poorly.
A lot is being made about the team’s loss of leadership, but that’s the least of my worries. This is Devers’ team now. Story can take over a chunk of that as well without feeling like he’s stepping on toes. Kiké and Turner and all the Dodgers connected guys are going to bring instant chemistry. Yoshida seems like he’s going to be fun. That’s a solid group for Casas and co. to integrate into, and on the pitching side it’s a similar situation. It’s a clubhouse dynamics regime change for the first time in a long time, and it’s probably for the best that it’s happening in one fell swoop.
“Our third baseman is going to become the team leader. Talking to him towards the end of the season, the things he didn’t like, the things we didn’t do well, talking to me about it, he’s about to take over the leadership. He understands that after this winter he might be The Guy, and if we make him a commitment, it’s not just for 30-100, it comes with the territory of being the guy in the clubhouse, and he’s becoming that.”
Alex Cora, on Tom Caron’s podcast in October
I thought Youk was pretty good in the NESN booth last season, especially when talking hitting. He should be even more polished this year, so few complaints with this news.
Millar was a rough watch, feels like he’s on tv playing his character, and I thought it came across like he was not as prepared as should be expected. Having him on as an occasional third man in the booth for some Cowboy Up talk and jokes seems like a more appropriate role.
For me, Mazz was a fine addition, but it didn’t seem like the flow worked when it was just him and O'Brien. I would have liked to see him back as an occasional third man in the booth. When not being a sensationalist for radio ratings, I enjoy Mazz’s thoughts on baseball.
It’s nice that Middlebrooks will start making appearances in the booth, to me a potential Monaco/Middlebrooks pairing would be ideal as a long term solution for NESN, but who knows if we will ever get to that point. Hoping we get to see Merloni in the booth as well to see what that looks like.