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Monday, July 18, 2022

Details On Spring Extension Talks Between Red Sox, Rafael Devers

Prior to the start of the season, the Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers engaged in some extension talks that didn’t yield much progress, as the two sides were reportedly around $100MM apart in their floated prices.  Some more details on the negotiations were shared by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, who reports that the Sox viewed Matt Olson’s extension with the Braves as a possible model for a Devers deal.

Olson signed his eight-year, $168MM extension (with a $20MM club option for 2030) just a day after Atlanta landed the first baseman in a blockbuster trade with the Athletics.  Both Devers and Olson are in the same service-time class, and were under control through the 2023 via a final year of arbitration eligibility.  Back in April, MLBTR’s Anthony Franco looked at Devers through the lens of the Olson extension, but also made the point that “obviously, Olson and Devers don’t make for an apples-to-apples comparison.”

From Boston’s perspective, eight years and $168MM had been established as the market rate for a star first baseman, and Speier writes that the Sox were looking for an extension in that range “citing the likelihood that Devers would spend much of the contract either at first base or designated hitter.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 18, 2022 at 11:02 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rafael devers, red sox

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: July 19, 2022 at 06:14 PM (#6087421)
If Devers was really looking for 8/$268 then I think he's dreaming. It's not impossible I suppose -- Rendon, Arenado, Machado -- but I don't think anybody puts Devers in that class of player and the Rendon contract looks terrible and Arenado was looking shaky last year (not this year). Now if it was about being $100 M apart because Devers, coming off his age 24 season, wanted something in the 11-12 year range, then sure. Certainly about the last thing Devers would want is 8 years (with an option?) as he'd be entering his age 33 (34) season when he became FA again, a terrible age to be FA. It really needed to be either 6 or 10+ IMO.

Anyway, assuming the Devers offer would have included this year ... he's getting $11 this year so is in line for a min $16 next year but is having a huge year so that might go to $20 ... stilll, let's call that $27 to cover the first two year. The 6 FA years then ... Freeman got 6/$162; Bryant, a 3B moving to LF, got 7/$182; Semien 7/$175; Castellanos & Schwarber got $20 AAV for 5/4 years. So it seems market rate for this type of player would be around $25-26 M per year. That would work out to 8/$183; looks like Boston's offer was reasonable, maybe asking for a slightly too big discount but easily negotiable if Devers was OK with 8 years.

All that said of course, this looks to be working out very well for Devers. He's on a 7-8 WAR pace for this year. Now he does start looking like an elite player, at least as a hitter. Looking a lot like Cano with less defensive value.

RD 22-25: 297/355/549, 135 OPS+, 14 WAR, 4.5 WAR/650, -1 dWAR (still counting on the WAR measures)
RC 22-25: 303/335/468, 109 OPS+, 11 WAR, 3.0 WAR/650, 0 dWAR
MM 22-25: 284/345/511, 129 OPS+, 25 WAR, 5.7 WAR/650, 7 dWAR (Between 2020 and only halfway through 2022, Manny has 800 more PA; Devers has been durable)

Cano was pretty terrible at 25 but bounced back to 4.5 WAR with a 121 OPS+ at 26 ... but still, Devers has been better than the young Cano. I added Machado who has been better but once you control for covid and halfway through 2022, the WAR/650 difference is basically all defense.

Devers numbers are also as good as Freeman with the bat and a better WAR/650. Bryant 23-25 has about the same number of PAs as Devers current 22-25 but Bryant has a solid edge (mostly OBP, some defense). Matt Olson didn't really play at 22 and only about 60 games at 23 so we'll come them 23-25: by OPS+ very close, by WAR/650 Olson is up by about a win because of defense mostly.

So the Red Sox seem to have him pegged right as to his comps and therefore not far off on price. The big thing is that Olson's deal takes him through 35, Freeman's through 37, Bryant's through 36 ... Devers just through 32. Those other three deals cover late prime and early decline (which sometimes is quite rapid) while the proposed Devers deal would be all prime.

So I think I'll end up siding with him. The offer either needs to be longer (at about the same AAV) or shorter (with a higher AAV) or maybe something like Heyward's slightly front-loaded 8-year deal with a player option after year 5. Basically if you could have Olson ages 25-32 for the same price as Olson 28-35, you'd take the first one in heartbeat. Being 3-6 years younger at the time of offer is not comparable.
   2. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: July 20, 2022 at 09:39 AM (#6087470)
Devers sure looks like a guy who will be top-10 in the league in SLG and Total Bases almost every year. He's below average but not a disaster at 3B. Is he blocking anyone by staying there?
   3. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 20, 2022 at 09:49 AM (#6087471)
The two problems here are:

1) The age thing, as is mentioned above. This conversation is happening for him at a younger-than-usual age, because he came up young. The same thing is happening with Bogaerts, who doesn't want to wait until his current contract is done to enter the FA market. The REd Sox have to include his relative youth, and the decreased chance of a dropoff anytime soon, in their offer.

2) If you think Devers can remain a third baseman for the next, say, five years, then he is a lot more valuable to the Red Sox. Triston Casas is likely to be their first baseman entering 2023, and Casas will only be able to play 1B or DH - the same two roles Devers can play if he has to move off of 3B.

The team can probably only keep one of Bogaerts and Devers. Devers is a better hitter, but Bogaerts has more positional flexibility. Considering the team's three best prospects are probably a 1B (Casas), a SS (Mayer), and a 2B (Yorke), having Bogaerts' flexibility to stay at SS, move to 3B, or move to 2B is pretty desirable. Devers just doesn't have that - but, man, Devers is a hitting savant.
   4. Darren Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:27 PM (#6087500)
ZiPS for 2022 (prior to season):

Olson: 4.7
Devers: 4.5

Olson was set to reach FA at age 30, Devers at 27, though. That doesn't seem like a great comp. Due to age, I think Machado is actually a better comp, even though he was pretty clearly a notch above Devers. So yeah, maybe you give Devers 11 and 17 for his last 2 arb years, then 30 for the next six (same as Machado due to inflation), and where does that put us? 8/208. Closer to the Sox but I'm not sure they would go for that, and it seems unlikely Devers would.

Arenado (29) and Rendon (30) were also older enough to make them almost useless as comps, but they got much bigger deals.
   5. Darren Posted: July 20, 2022 at 02:53 PM (#6087507)
I should add that Devers has been somewhat inconsistent and it must have been difficult to decide whether to commit to him long-term for big money. Given that, I guess I can squint and see the argument for the Olson comp.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: July 20, 2022 at 06:28 PM (#6087531)
On Devers' defense ... I am agnostic on whether it's bad enough to require a move (or will be in a few years). It's not per se part of my argument -- my argument is that it's clearly substantially worse than Machado and Arenado for sure and probably a good bit worse than Rendon's. So in AAV terms, he's simply not in their class, they're adding 1-1.5 wins more than he is. The age issue is very important but that is a contract length (and opt-outs) issue, not an AAV issue.

So if Devers' objection is that he thinks he's a "$35 M a year" player then I think he's wrong. If his objection is that he needs more years than Olson/Freeman/Bryant (or fewer years than 8) then I agree with him. The same logic applies to the Sox of course -- if you want him at that AAV then you need to offer him something through age 35; if you don't want him that long, then you've got to go 5-6 years at higher AAV or at least offer an option in the middle of the 10-year deal. Obviously AAV and years can be balanced -- i.e. Devers might be worth $35 M/year on a 4-year extension (i.e. 4 FA years bought out at $35 each, add on the 2 arb years) since the team would run minimal risk of decline so in that sense he might be a $35 M a year player. Still, at that price, the team will want options.

All of that based on where he was entering 2022. He's absolutely tearing it up (he's basically already hit that ZiPS projection) and might have moved into peak Cano territory in which case he's easily worth $35+ M a year for the next several years. The original Sox offer doesn't stand a chance at the moment -- if he has a bad 2nd half then maybe he will be more amenable this offseason.

Other ZiPS

Freeman 4.1
Bryant 3.1
Machado 4.4

Highlights the issues here. He's as good as Olson, Freeman and (maybe) Machado entering 2022. On the plus side, he's younger so you should get more years like this out of him than out of the other three -- that's the "show me the years" issue. On the negative side, if he's never going to be better than this, he's not a $30-35 M/yr player (as these things are usually priced). He's been much worse than Machado, worse than Bryant and Olson, a bit better than Freeman at the same ages -- doesn't really tell us a whole lot but it doesn't suggest a big break out is coming. But, due to age, obviously his chances of taking a big step up are much higher than any of these three. Finally Bryant and Machado show the dangers of committing to Devers -- some players are less productive 25-29 than they were before. (Matt Chapman would be another one but he wasn't full-time until age 25.)

If somebody wants to dig deeper, that's fine with me. It wouldnj't surprise me if over the next 5 seasons Devers projects to 22 WAR while these guys project to more like 15-18. That would be a big gap and a 5-year contract should reflect that in AAV. Or you extend him through age 35 expecting 35-40 WAR and spread that out into a lower AAV. Substitute the $/WAR estimate of your choice, remember to discount the arb years and a further discount for the Red Sox committing early.

In his FA offseason, ZiPS projection for Machado was a relatively pessimistic 5.3 -- he'd had 17 over the previous 3 years. (Bellinger 4.8 -- warning Will Robinson!) 3.5 years into the deal, he's at 15 but having a big year so it might be up to 18 by season's end, 4.5 per year. Per Rfield, the defense has declined substantially, he also had a "bad" hitting year in the first year. Machado 26-35 will probably produce that 35-40 WAR guesstimate I gave for Devers ... after being substantially better than Devers at the same ages.

By the way, the Red Sox seem to have a habit of this but have sometimes gotten away with it. They got X to agree to a contract (with an opt-out) ending at age 32; Story only runs through 34; JDM through 34 with opt-outs. This Devers offer was rather X-esque on the surface. Maybe this was part of the problem with Mookie. If the Red Sox have decided they're not committing beyond age 34, they aren't gonna get many top FAs or extend young stars.
   7. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 20, 2022 at 06:41 PM (#6087533)
Maybe this was part of the problem with Mookie. If the Red Sox have decided they're not committing beyond age 34, they aren't gonna get many top FAs or extend young stars.


It really is a shame. If only they were a team that had boatloads of merch sales, had a super rich owner and also got like a free $200 mil distributed to them each year; then they could really spend!
   8. Walt Davis Posted: July 20, 2022 at 07:48 PM (#6087539)
also got like a free $200 mil distributed to them each year

It's not exactly "free." (or at all free but let's stay colloquial) The $200 M includes "common" and "shared" revenue. The "common" revenue is the national TV contracts, merch sales and stuff like that -- i.e. MLB/national-level revenue. That is shared equally among all teams and is "free" in that sense. I forget what portion of the $200 M this represents but am pretty sure it's less than half.

The "shared" revenue comes from the individual teams. Every team puts about 50% of their local revenue (local TV, tix, etc) -- with some adjustments for stadium loan repayments and such -- then it is doled out in 30 equal shares. Teams like the Yanks, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, etc. pay more into the pool than they get out of it. Unless they've figured out some "tax dodge" that the small market owners haven't closed yet.

I assume that the net loss on the shared revenue for the Sox is smaller than their share of the common revenue so they are still in that sense getting some "free money" but it's nothing on the order of $200 M and might be quite close to $0. Since every team pays into the shared pool, nobody is getting $200 M of "free money" but the small markets are doing something like turning $50 M of local revenue (half their total local revenue) into $125 M in shared revenue which is a nice trick. (Then they get their share of the common revenue on top of that.)

The importance of the $200 M (which I think is over $210 now) is that every team gets $200 M plus half their local revenue. If the Rays can generate even $100 M of local revenue, they then get $250 M of total revenue. If they are then running a $60 M payroll and the other costs of running the team are fairly minimal (maybe another $60 M, not sure it's even that high) then they are making a very tidy profit. Basically there is no such thing as a "small market" that can't afford to spend on FAs. Every team can afford a payroll around $150 M now while making a good profit. If the Yanks, Dodgers, etc. want to go way above $150 M then so be it but nobody has an excuse for running $60 M payrolls. (Now if teams had to build their own stadiums...)
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: July 20, 2022 at 07:58 PM (#6087541)
If the Red Sox have decided they're not committing beyond age 34, they aren't gonna get many top FAs or extend young stars.
In addition to the guys you mentioned, they also reached an extension agreement in the not distant past with Sale. Assuming they continue to run a large payroll, I'm not too worried about them finding guys to take their money.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: July 21, 2022 at 05:49 PM (#6087682)
Fair point on Sale. Pitchers are different of course but still that's a contract that runs through age 35 (with a vesting option for 36) which is pretty standard -- you can get just about anybody to take your millions when you guarantee through at least age 35.

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