Signing Rafael Devers to a long-term extension would give the Red Sox some peace of mind that they've locked in another young star alongside Xander Bogaerts for the long haul.
Too bad the coming offseason doesn't look like the best time to do it. As we laid out on Wednesday, if the Red Sox have designs on getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold and resetting their penalty clock, then they'd be best served paying Devers about $800,000 as a pre-arbitration player. That's a more manageable 2020 salary than the $12 million-plus a new deal would count for tax purposes.
If there's a deal to be had and the Red Sox can't make it for budgetary reasons, that would be a shame, because Devers continues pushing to greater heights during his breakout campaign.
On Wednesday, Devers smashed his 50th double of the season. He needs just one more homer to reach 30, at which point he'd have a good shot at becoming just the second player in Red Sox history to bat over .300 with 30 homers, 50 doubles, and 100 RBIs. The other was David Ortiz in 2007.
His teammates let him know about double No. 50, which made him the youngest player in franchise history to reach that mark.
"Of course, they all congratulated me, but it's one of those things, if I stay healthy, I know the kind of offensive game that I have," Devers told reporters in Toronto. "It feels great, but just because I'm the youngest doesn't really mean much. At the same time, because we're all grown men, and I know what I have to do and the type of job that I have, I'm just really thankful to be able to have that."
What's scary is how much better Devers could be in a couple of years when he adds even more strength, not to mention experience.
"I think I'm just continuing to learn, and there's a lot of room left for me to grow," Devers told reporters. "During the offseason, I'll go and check out what it is I need to work on to get better because that's what I love to do, just to learn more about my game and try to get as much knowledge as possible, but obviously if I can stay healthy, I know I can have more successful seasons like I am now."
Bogaerts joked at the All-Star Game that he's glad he got his six-year, $120 million extension when he did, because Devers suddenly looks like someone who's going to command a sizable chunk of the payroll. Devers' emergence could make defending MVP Mookie Betts expendable, especially if the Red Sox decide $30 million annually is an unwise investment, because with pitchers David Price and Chris Sale on the books for over $30 million apiece next year, the Red Sox must ask themselves how many $30M players is too many.
Devers is taking a more grounded approach.
"Overall, my health, that's been the biggest thing that's contributed to the success that I've had this season, because I haven't had any really real injuries like I've had in past years, so the fact that I'm fully healthy is why I'm having the season that I'm having," Devers told reporters.
Devers went 1-for-4 in Thursday's listless loss to the Blue Jays. He has scuffled a bit recently, but hopes to finish strong.
"It's just part of the game," he told reporters. "Obviously, during the season you're going to have ups and downs and I've had a lot of ups this season, so obviously at some point I knew I was going to have some struggles at the plate, but I'm just trying to grind it out and go through it so I can finish strong."
In a parallel universe, a strong finish could land Devers a long-term contract offer. In this one, that's a much dicier proposition. At the very least, the Red Sox might have to structure an offer that doesn't kick in until 2021, which will only raise his price.
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