According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), the Boston Red Sox made a huge splash Wednesday night, signing 26-year old 3B Rafael Devers to an 11-year, $331M contract extension that begins in the 2024 season. His new deal will keep him in the AL East through his age-38 season in 2035.
Devers had already agreed yesterday to a one-year, $17.5M contract to avoid arbitration in 2023, but would have been a free agent after this season. The $348.5M the Red Sox have now committed to him (including a $20M signing bonus), is the largest sum they’ve ever guaranteed to a player, easily surpassing the seven-year, $217M free agent deal former Blue Jay David Price signed with them after the 2015 season.
As per Jack Baer of Yahoo!Sports, it’s also the most money ever given to a third baseman. Only shortstops Francisco Lindor (ten-years, $341M plus $21M signing bonus) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (14-years, $340M plus a $10M signing bonus) have ever received more among infielders.
Obviously Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman is a pending free agent after this season, but he’s starting his age-30 season and isn’t near the offensive player that Devers is. The two-time All-Star and 2021 Silver Slugger has mashed 108 home runs and 359 RBI over the past four seasons, posting a slash line of .292/.352/.532/.884 with an OPS+ of 132 and bWAR of 14.0 along the way.
The more likely comparable is Blue Jays two-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is a few years behind Devers in terms of MLB service time, and won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season. However, Vlad’s offensive numbers are almost identical to Devers, including a 2021 Silver Slugger award when he finished 2nd in AL MVP voting behind Shohei Ohtani. Since 2019, Vlad has slashed .284/.358/.504/.862 with an OPS+ of 135 and bWAR of 13.4, to go along with 104 home runs and 310 RBI.
Also important is Vlad’s defense at first base, where he won a Gold Glove this year with a total Defensive Runs Saved above average (DRS) mark of +3 according to FanGraphs and the Fielding Bible. His Outs Above Average (OAA) of -4 wasn’t great according to Statcast, but compared to Devers’ DRS of -13 and OAA -13 in in 2021 and DRS -6 and OAA -2 in 2022, Vlad adds more value defensively.
Which means the cost to extend Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just became much more expensive. Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic (subscription required) had speculated back in October on a 7 year, $200M deal for Devers at a $28.5M AAV, so this is considerably higher.
A similar type deal for Vlad would be an 11 or 12-year, $335-370M contract extension to take effect from the 2026 season after his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2025. Like the Red Sox, if Rogers and the front office want to avoid a fan mutiny, they might need to step up with a comparable offer.
Like the Devers deal, it might just be a move the Blue Jays will have no choice but to make given the weak state of the farm system and the MVP-level talent of Guerrero, who like Devers today, will still only be 26-years old entering his walk year in 2025.