First of all, if you’re reading this, you have yet to fall into the complete euphoria surrounding football season. The Red Sox aren’t in strong enough contention to keep hold of the fanbase now that the Patriots are back in action. The signing of Antonio Brown doesn’t exactly help keep the focus on Boston baseball either.
Truthfully, it’s tough to keep any amount of faith that manager Alex Cora’s ballclub will be able to overcome a 7.0 game deficit by the end of the regular season. So with that in mind, many fans appear to be turning their focus on the offseason. What can be fixed? How will it be fixed? Who will be back? And, well, will Dave Dombrowski be making those calls?
At the start of the season, the extension given to Xander Bogaerts already made future contracts interesting being that they won’t be able to sign everyone on this current roster–duh. Bogaerts was in that group that you would like to be brought back to Boston, and he’s now contracted to do so for the next six seasons. But with that move being made–to state the obvious–money was taken away from other possible future signings such as Mookie Betts.
Something else that effected the offseason plans? The explosive, breakout seasons by both Bogaerts, and 22-year-old Rafael Devers.
The expectation has been there for both players to become if not superstars, close to it. Devers–again, being just 22–has plenty of time to develop so the concern wasn’t exactly there at this point. But with Bogaerts, there was slight concern about his ability to stay consistent, especially at the plate.
Sometimes when athletes obtain large, lucrative deals as he did over the offseason, you may see a drop off in production. You could attribute that to just being a simple coincidence, or you could link it to the player no longer having that deal to strive toward.
But it goes without saying, since that contract was signed, he’s had a career year.
He’s proven himself as a complete, offensive power threat this season sitting on a batting average of .309, going into September 8th’s contest with 31 home runs and a .955 OPS. In years prior, he’d only hit 23 blasts in a season, and that came during their 2018 World Series campaign.
And not to mention, he’s clearly become the leader of the locker room and team.
Devers too blossomed with the bat in his hands in 2019 and from the start of the season, proved that he’s become a more mature hitter as he rolls through his third year in the bigs.
In years past, part of his issue at the plate appeared to be the desire to essentially put the ball on the Pike with every swing. The 2019 version of Devers seems to be much more calculated with every swing that he takes. He might have learned a thing or two from veteran J.D. Martinez as he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath during almost every plate appearance.
Hitting .314 with a .932 OPS and 29 home runs, the young third baseman has developed into one of the most feared hitters in the American League. So much so that there are those clamoring for his name to be tossed into the MVP conversation ring.
But how do these two massive years directly affect the Red Sox personnel plans moving forward?
The Red Sox offense has been one of the most terrifying in baseball over the last few seasons. They’ve consistently put out season-long lineups that can compete with any opponent’s. But with contracts expiring and deals potentially being on the table, having these two in your back pocket for years to come gives the Red Sox leverage.
As previously mentioned, Bogaerts is locked up for six more seasons following the conclusion of 2019. And as for Devers, he has one more year of team control which will subsequently be followed by three years of arbitration eligibility.
Not as effected by this, but partially, is J.D. Martinez. Martinez has the option to hit the free-agent market this offseason and if he chooses not to, he could elect to do so the following two winters as well.
With two now solidified bats who have again, proven that they can produce with power, the team doesn’t necessarily need to throw everything they possibly have at Martinez.
Part of the issue ahead of Martinez’s arrival was the lack of that guy in the middle of the lineup that caused pitchers to think about his upcoming at-bat. Previously, after the opposing pitcher was to get by Mookie Betts, the challenge wasn’t impeccably high in sending the following batters down. In laments terms, they could afford to perhaps pitch around Betts and maybe walk him knowing that there are easier hitters to face coming up. With Martinez slotted in, pitchers are more forced to throw to a guy like Betts, giving him the chance to hit and do damage.
With Bogaerts and Devers both proving their effectiveness in the power department, Martinez becomes slightly less valuable. Now, don’t read this the wrong way. Regardless of this situation, the Red Sox front office should absolutely attempt to lock up Martinez for the long-term. He’s an immensely valuable piece to this lineup and clubhouse. But because of what we now know of Devers and Bogaerts, it would hurt, but the blow of losing him may not be as damaging.
And probably the toughest one to make a decision on, Mookie Betts.
There is no question that Betts is one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s one of the most well-rounded stars that the Red Sox have had, at least in my lifetime.
Between his Gold Glove defense, his ability to hit for power, a consistently high average, and his speed on the basepaths, he’s a complete ballplayer that you’d probably construct in a video game.
But the fact of the matter is that he will cost whoever signs him a baffling amount of money. We’re looking at a price tag of something around the cost of $400 million. Now, with Red Sox owner John Henry being adamant in the team not going over the luxury tax in certain years, having a player with this kind of salary on the books would make that mark potentially difficult to adhere to.
Following the 2020 season, Betts will hit the free-agent market. The question here is, would the Red Sox trade him this winter?
Devers and Bogaerts both come into play here in an almost identical way that they did with Martinez. Now that we know how strong they are offensively, it cushions the blow of possibly losing Betts in the future.
It gives the team the opportunity to perhaps not trade Betts, but at least sniff around the idea and look at replenishing that diminished farm system. You have two guys who can make up for the loss at the plate, but regardless, losing the reigning MVP would be a tough pill to swallow.
You know that if you were to depart with one of them, the offense wouldn’t take such a drop off that they wouldn’t be able to recover and that makes things very intriguing as we head into the fall.
Their major steps forward–especially Devers’– gives the Red Sox flexibility and slight leverage now, once they enter offseason. Now the question is, are we going to see any major moves that could directly be effected by their 2019 surges?