They had to do it.
The Red Sox absolutely, positively, we'll-turn-this-car-around-right-now had to sign Rafael Devers. They could not watch another homegrown star leave. They could not sell a disgruntled fanbase on acquiring more prospects. They could not bookend this winter by losing Xander Bogaerts in free agency and trading Devers.
So they chose the only option available to a franchise that had backed itself into an existential corner and paid the man.
Red Sox players react to Devers' reported contract extension
The 11-year, $331 million extension that Devers will sign -- barring any Carlos Correa-style revelations in his physical -- is a long-term win for the player and at least a short-term one for the team. With contracts soaring to heights that would've made Icarus wish he had beeswaxed a few more feathers to his undercarriage, the Red Sox were never going to land Devers for anything less than market value.
He might've scored $400 million next offseason, but he left nothing to chance. The Red Sox made him the offer he always believed he was worth, and so he took it. Not even a year after being told the team viewed him like Atlanta's Matt Olson, Devers nearly doubled that $168 million deal. He won.
The Red Sox? They stanched the bleeding of a miserable offseason, but retaining him doesn't actually make them any better in 2023. It just keeps them from getting a hell of a lot worse.
It does at least lower the heat on owner John Henry, who was heckled and booed at his own ballpark during Monday's NHL Winter Classic, and it suggests the chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has it in him to extend beyond his perception of a player's value to strike a deal.
When the news broke, I had three immediate thoughts:
1. Bloom needed to show he could negotiate a contract of this magnitude. The Red Sox are generally viewed as a bottom-10 team in terms of talent, and if Bloom's still calling the shots next winter, he'll have the opportunity to pursue a generational talent like Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani. He has joked in the past that he's aware numbers as big as 300 million exist. At least now he has proven it. The Red Sox cannot afford a repeat of this winter's near misses.
2. This is Devers' team now. Unless you're Derek Jeter, most young players become the face of a franchise in stages. It took Xander Bogaerts six years to get there, from youngster in awe of David Ortiz as a rookie to part of an emerging core alongside Mookie Betts, to franchise player. He didn't become the leader of the team until probably 2019.
Devers has followed a similar supporting arc, starting with his turbocharged arrival in 2017 at age 20, and continuing through last season, when he willingly deferred to Bogaerts. There's no one left to defer to now. At age 26, he is the face of the Red Sox. We'll see if he's ready for the responsibilities that entails.
3. This might not actually be a good long-term deal! While barrel-chested and incredibly strong, Devers isn't exactly blessed with the best body. There's still no guarantee that he remains at third base long-term. And most concerning of all, he battled back and hamstring issues last year that curtailed his effectiveness for most of the second half.
Mike Trout is Exhibit A in how nagging injuries in your mid-20s can become season-ending ones at age 30. This is unlikely to affect Devers immediately, but it could be an issue in two or three years when the Red Sox think the Marcelo Mayers of the world will be establishing themselves and their next realistic window of contention opens.
That said, the Red Sox have absorbed too many blows since trading Betts in 2020 to risk another homegrown loss. Of all the talent that Ben Cherington nurtured and Dave Dombrowski promoted, Devers is the last man standing.
No one in ownership wanted to even consider a future without him, so they finally, belatedly stepped to the plate. It is a start.