You know when people sometimes say “I hate to say I told ya so …”?
Yeah, I’m not that kind of guy.
Never have been, never will be. If we disagree and I turn out to be correct, chances are very good that you’ll be hearing about it from me. Over and over.
And I said all along that the Red Sox would extend Rafael Devers before the start of this season. I’ve said it on Bleacher Brawls podcasts and YouTube videos dating back to early 2022, and I invite you to check out the archives if you doubt me.
I even placed my support of this franchise’s strategy on the line, declaring that I would no longer support this direction if Chaim Bloom and Fenway Sports Group did not sign their 26-year-old offensive centerpiece.
Of course, they signed him. There was no conceivable reason not to lock Devers up and make him the focal point of the offense moving forward. You’d have to be crazy to think that the Boston Red Sox would risk letting a player of this caliber hit free agency during a time when they have no dead money on the payroll, a handful of young talented players on the team ready to be impactful contributors, and a group of promising prospects ready to hit the majors over the next couple years.
I knew they’d sign him, yet many Red Sox fans not only doubted that a deal would get done and considered Raffy as good as gone.
The reasons that a not-so-small portion of the fanbase gave for dismissing the possibility of the Red Sox locking up Devers ranged from the strange to the downright comedic.
Bloom and the Red Sox refuse to re-sign home grown players that won’t give them a hometown discount!
Henry and Werner are cutting overhead in preparation to sell the team!
Bloom will never pay anybody a deal at the top of the market!
Devers will not stand for the Red Sox not paying whatever it takes to re-sign Xander Bogaerts. Letting Raffy’s friend go was a slap in the face, he’s done in Boston!
And yet, despite all that, a long-term deal was somehow completed.
Wow. It’s almost like the Boston Red Sox have a coordinated philosophy toward building a young team bereft of potentially crippling contracts that could hamper their financial flexibility down the road. It’s almost as if Rafael Devers is a grown man that wants to make the most sensible business decision for himself and genuinely enjoys playing for the Red Sox.
Told ya so.
Now the Red Sox know who they will be building their offense around for the next decade. I wrote a couple weeks ago that, without Devers, this Red Sox lineup is a group of side dishes without an entrée. By signing Rafael Devers to an 11 year $331 million extension, the Sox have procured a big ol’ slab of prime rib in the middle of the order to water the mouths of Red Sox fans for the foreseeable future. And when you look at the trimmings that surround him, the meal prep looks a lot tastier now than it did a week ago.
This season’s dinner special comes with a side of contact hitters like Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo, who will consistently put the ball in play and should benefit a great deal from Major League Baseball’s crackdown on defensive shifts. Less strikeouts and no overloaded sides of the field should result in a drastic league-wide surge in singles, which should help this Red Sox team more than most. Boston has whiffed as much as just about any team in baseball for the past couple seasons. Removing hardcore hackers like JD Martinez and Bobby Dalbec from the lineup and replacing them with a few guys who rarely punch out, especially during a time where the handcuffs have been placed on defenses, gives this team a far tastier aroma out of the gate.
If contact hitters like Turner and Verdugo are the mashed potatoes and mixed veggies of this meal, Masataka Yoshida and his career .419 OBP in Japan is the house salad that will whet our whistle. He walked 82 times while striking out 42 times in his last season in Japan. While the pitchers in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization are not as good as MLB hurlers, that type of strike zone awareness does not vanish over the course of a trans-continental plane ride. Yoshida’s OBP was an astonishing .449 in 2022. Even if that drops by .100 points in his MLB rookie year, he will reach base enough to ensure that Devers will bat with more people on base than he had last season.
And speaking of strike zone awareness, let’s not forget intriguing rookie Triston Casas, the side of balsamic-drizzled brussels sprouts we’ll add to this feast. A .358 OBP with 19 walks and five home runs in 95 Major League plate appearances tells me that this 22-year-old rookie has better plate discipline than many ten-year veterans, and that will only improve with time.
Looking at this lineup as a meal, I guess Trevor Story is the cocktail; good on some nights and bad on others depending on who is tending bar, but always having the potential to make the night a lot more interesting and memorable.
Extending Rafael Devers for 11 years does even more than ensuring that the Red Sox will have that dynamic threat anchoring the lineup for the next decade. It tells Boston sports fans, as well as players around the league, that the Red Sox will invest big money and long years on the right players in the right situations.
Mookie Betts was the right kind of player in the wrong kind of financial situation when his contract came due.
Xander Bogaerts was the right kind of player at the wrong age when he hit free agency.
Rafael Devers, however, is the right kind of player at the right time. The kind of player that the Red Sox were willing to push all their chips across the green felt and go all in for.
Chaim Bloom and Fenway Sports Group paid Trevor Story, a great athlete and very good ballplayer, a six-year, $140 million contract last offseason. This offseason, they have dished out the biggest contract in franchise history to a homegrown superstar, the first homegrown player the organization has ever locked up to a top-of-market deal. All the dross about the Red Sox intentionally falling back from big-market powerhouse to mid-market schlub has now been proven unequivocally false, although I knew it all along. Now, nobody can deny the truth.
Shohei Ohtani knows the truth. Manny Machado knows the truth. Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Max Scherzer, and every other star that is scheduled to hit the free agent market after the 2023 season … they all know the truth. The truth is that the Boston Red Sox are active suitors for the best players on the market as long as the player fits Chaim Bloom’s vision of a Red Sox team that can contend for a long time.
If any of those guys fit the mold of this team as well as Rafael Devers does, they could find themselves cashing in while participating in something truly special: a Red Sox team that is gearing up to make a dynastic run. If everything plays out just as Bloom envisions it — if the Red Sox take home multiple championships in the next several years — very few of the fans who were yielding torches and pitchforks while calling for Bloom’s head a week ago (or even now) will admit to their shortsighted overreactions of 2022. Some of the more honest ones will cop to having some doubts about Bloom and FSG, but many of them will punctuate that confession by insisting that they never lost hope.
But fear not, fellow purveyors of honesty. This humble columnist will be right there to look these doom-and-gloomers in the eye and reflect the truth that they’ll try, in vain, to deny.
I’ll be there to remind them how distraught they were when Zach Eflin, Jose Abreu, and Nathan Eovaldi declined Boston offers so they could play elsewhere. I’ll be there to point out their hot takes from way back in December of 2022: that Chaim Bloom is too out of his depth in Boston, too stubborn to play big market baseball, too scared to close the deal.
I’ll be there to dish out three of the prettiest words in the English language.
Told ya so.