In an alternate universe, perhaps the Red Sox could've targeted Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez this winter via trade as a stopgap at second base and insurance against Rafael Devers leaving in free agency.
Ramirez, however, may have done the Red Sox an even bigger favor by staying put on Wednesday.
With Cleveland in full rebuild mode and rumors swirling that the Padres would acquire him in a trade, Ramirez instead shocked pretty much everyone by agreeing to a five-year, $124 million extension that will keep him in Cleveland through 2028, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
The contract includes a full no-trade clause and guarantees that Ramirez can stay in Cleveland. It's also a significant bargain for a three-time All-Star with four top-six MVP finishes since 2017.
The obvious question from a Red Sox perspective is what the deal means for Devers. He can become a free agent after the 2023 season and is open to a long-term extension. On his current trajectory, he'll make more than the 29-year-old Ramirez because of his age (25), but Ramirez's contract should pull the market back towards the Red Sox.
It certainly feels like the $300 million given to players such as Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. is now off the table, if it was ever on there at all. The Red Sox can argue to Devers that Ramirez is the better all-around player, a WAR machine who trails only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout in that category since 2017.
As good as Devers was at 24 last year, hitting .279 with 38 homers and an .890 OPS, Ramirez was even better at that age in 2017, when he broke out with a league-leading 56 doubles and .957 OPS en route to a third-place MVP finish.
The switch-hitting Ramirez is a far better fielder than Devers, with history at second base and short. He ranked fifth in outs above average at third base last year and is even a threat on the bases, with 27 steals in 31 chances. He's one of the most complete third basemen in baseball and he effectively signed what amounts to a seven-year, $150 million contract, including this season and his 2023 option.
Devers is still worth at least $200 million over eight years and could reasonably argue for $250 million over 10. We've laid out why the Red Sox might want to wait before making a decision, since it's unclear if he'll become consistent enough at third base to stay there.
But there's certainly value in Devers holding the line, too, since a monster campaign at age 25 would launch him into a different economic stratosphere.
Such are the push and pull of these massive negotiations, but for one day at least, thanks to Ramirez, the power seems to have shifted back in the direction of the Red Sox.