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Should the Boston Red Sox prioritize a long-term deal with shortstop Xander Bogaerts or third baseman Rafael Devers?
Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is expected to opt-out of his contract this offseason. Third baseman Rafael Devers, meanwhile, has the 2023 season to increase his value. It’s his last year of arbitration eligibility ahead of his first trip into free agency. The Red Sox can prevent that from happening with an early extension.
Whether the Red Sox make the decision now or later on these two, it may be a choice of one over the other. Are they better off with Bogaerts long-term or keeping Devers happy?
The answer is pretty clear.
The Red Sox are better off with Rafael Devers long-term than Xander Bogaerts
Devers has the advantage in age and at least in this season, ability. He is not far behind some of the usual suspects in terms of the American League MVP race. His 26th birthday isn’t until this October and already he has two 30+ home run and 100+ RBI seasons. He looks bound to challenge for another in 2022 with maybe only the RBI totals falling short. However, a massive increase in batting average and slugging percentage from his career norms will make up for it if he does fall shy.
This isn’t to discredit the things Bogaerts does well. Now in his tenth season with the Red Sox, he has been a big part of their success over the years. A lighter hitter with some above-average pop for a middle infielder, he is also having a spectacular year. He would bring plenty of value to Boston yet again in 2023 and beyond. But if it’s a choice between the two, Devers is more important.
The Red Sox already have a Bogaerts replacement on the roster with Trevor Story playing second base this year. And even if they decide to ultimately keep him at second base, the shortstop free agent market will give them plenty of other choices this offseason. For the second straight winter, the free agent market will future some incredible talents. Third base, on the other hand, has far less talented players.
The same year that Devers becomes a free agent does have a few notable third basemen also available. However, other than Manny Machado with an opt-out, they are much older than Devers will be at the time.
Third base just isn’t as deep of a position as it has been in the past. While the drop from the best shortstops to the middle-tier might be dramatic, there is an abundance of options immediately available for the Red Sox to pursue. Losing Devers might just create a hole.
The power numbers Devers puts up through doubles and home runs also cannot be denied. He can hit for both power and average. It’s a unique ability that outmatches what Bogaerts can do.
Preferably, the Red Sox keep long-term. Given the choice to only bring one home from the toy store, it’s Devers and it’s not that close.