Rafael Devers is giving off serious Mookie Betts vibes right now, and he has all the power.
The news that Devers and the Red Sox couldn't agree to a contract extension Wednesday shouldn't be surprising. On the one hand, the Red Sox have yet to illustrate under Chaim Bloom that they're anxious to make anyone an offer they can't refuse. On the other, Devers seems intent on reaching free agency and earning whatever the market will bear.
Based on recent free agent contracts, that should be a ton.
So even without knowing exactly what the Red Sox offered Devers this spring, it was inevitably going to be too little, because the 25-year-old clearly views himself more in line with the game's $300 million talents -- Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Bryce Harper, his aforementioned ex-teammate sporting Dodger Blue -- than someone like Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez, who took a hometown discount to remain in Cleveland for five years and $125 million.
Anyone hoping that deal would bring Devers down to a more manageable number knows nothing about Devers. The Red Sox can argue that the Ramirez contract drags the absolute ceiling on any new deal down to eight years and $200 million or 10 years and $250 million, but Devers is under no obligation to accept their logic.
He knows he's four years younger than Ramirez and a more dangerous slugger (albeit a lesser all-around player). He also knows he only needs to complete the 2023 season before becoming a free agent and then seeing what riches the rest of baseball has to offer.
With the luxury tax threshold rising and players like Rangers shortstop Corey Seager cashing in for over $300 million, Devers isn't interested in your concerns about his long-term viability at third base or the fact that virtually all of his value ties to his bat. He believes he's on par with young stars like Tatis and Washington's Juan Soto, and he wants to be paid like it.
If the Red Sox were going to sign Devers long-term, it needed to happen at least two years ago, but he says they never made an offer. When the starter's gun fired on this condensed spring training post-lockout, it became clear that time was on no one's side, which is why it looks like the Red Sox aren't going to extend anyone between now and Friday's first pitch in New York.
That fits Bloom's M.O. He does not fear replacing even the most talented stars, as he proved by dealing Betts in his first major move, and he doesn't seem to mind letting contract situations play out, either. Outside of Evan Longoria and Wander Franco, that is the Rays Way on which he was raised.
The danger is letting a superstar leave for virtually nothing, and so now we must face the possibility that the big-market Red Sox decide they'd rather deal Devers next winter before he waves goodbye in free agency. Trading a slugger who hasn't even entered his prime will be a much tougher sell even than dealing Betts, which felt mandated from ownership. We gave Bloom a pass because he parachuted into a dumpster.
Losing Devers will be considered a move of the chief baseball officer's own doing, if it gets that far, and he might be OK with that. Devers should fetch a whale of a return.
Red Sox fans, on the other hand, will feel very differently, and ownership recognizes the impact that anger can have on interest and engagement. They're not keen to relive the trauma over losing Betts, even if the decision didn't hamper their ability to reach the ALCS last year.
And Betts is the lesson we should be taking from this situation. He never hid the fact that he intended to reach free agency, and he ended up earning over $300 million from the Dodgers as a result. Devers hasn't been as explicit about his intentions, but it sure feels like he has reached the same conclusion.