After Boston won its ninth World Series in 2018, the Red Sox’s outlook was as strong as ever.
Mookie Betts had one of the best seasons in the Statcast Era, Andrew Benintendi burst onto the scene as one of the best young stars in baseball, J.D. Martinez proved he was worth every bit of the $110 million he was signed for before the season, and Jackie Bradley Jr. was among the premier defensive outfielders and baserunners in the sport.
Xander Bogaerts had a breakout season at the plate emerging as a top-tier shortstop, Steve Pearce was fantastic at the plate after being acquired at the trade deadline and won World Series MVP, and Brock Holt was one of the most valuable utility players in baseball.
Nathan Eovaldi became a World Series hero and proved to be a great trade deadline acquisition, Eduardo Rodriguez established himself as a reliable-young rotation piece, Rick Porcello and David Price provided quality innings, and Craig Kimbrel was one of the best relievers in baseball.
Despite all of these players being a big reason why the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, none of them remain in Boston.
Although the Red Sox lost a few contributors from the 2018 team, most notably Kimbrel, it was widely expected Boston would be contending for another World Series in 2019. Despite high preseason expectations, the Red Sox finished the season 84-78 and missed the Postseason for the first time since 2015.
With Betts set to be a free agent after the 2020 season following a disappointing 2019 season, the Red Sox had to decide what to do with its star. Since the team decided it wanted to get below the luxury tax for the 2020 season, the first major move Chaim Bloom made in his Red Sox tenure was trading Betts and Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.
This trade marked the start of a new era in Boston, one that didn’t look nearly as promising as it did a year earlier and one with many question marks. After a dreadful 2020 season expectations were low for Boston in 2021, but it exceeded every expectation. Despite not being expected to make the Postseason, the Red Sox snuck into the Wild Card and eventually took the Houston Astros to six games in the ALCS. Following Boston’s bounce-back season, the Red Sox were expected to compete in the competitive AL East in 2022, however, it finished the season 78-84 and last place in the AL East.
Following its disappointing season, the Red Sox had a lot of decisions to make in the offseason. Bogaerts, Martinez, and Eovaldi all hit the open market as free agents. Although it was heavily reported that the Red Sox and Bogaerts were working towards agreeing to a new contract, the San Diego Padres swooped and signed him to an 11-year contract worth $280 million. After being unable to agree to an extension with Bogaerts while he was still under contract in Boston and as a free agent in addition to losing almost all of its key contributors from the last several years, Chaim Bloom had another decision to make. This time with Rafael Devers.
Devers made his Major League in 2017 and despite showing flashes, he didn’t truly break out until 2019. Although he has his limitations as a defender – which could affect his future as a third baseman – and as a base runner, Devers has been one of the best offensive players in baseball. From 2019-2022, Devers hit .292/.352/.532 (132 wRC+) and had 16.5 fWAR (4.9 per 150 games).
Like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Devers is a homegrown star. Heading into 2023, Devers was set to only have one more season left in arbitration before becoming a free agent following the season. In the same position with Betts in the 2019-2020 offseason, Chaim Bloom traded his star. In the same position with Bogaerts in the 2021-2022 offseason, Chaim Bloom neither traded nor extended his star and let him walk in free agency. However, on Wednesday, the Red and Rafael Devers agreed to an 11-year $331 keeping him in Boston through his age 36 season.
By fully committing to Devers, the Red Sox front office has finally shown that they are committed to winning and building a culture, now in the Rafael Devers Era.
Instead of being surrounded by familiar faces like the B’s in 2018 (Bogaerts, Betts, Bradley Jr., and Benintendi), Devers will be surrounded by a mix of veterans and a new crop of homegrown talent.
In the offseason, the Red Sox signed Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, and Corey Kluber joining 2021-2022 free agent acquisitions Trevor Story and Kiké Hernandez. Additionally, even though he’s been in Boston since 2017, the Red Sox are hoping to get a full season from former Cy Young Chris Sale for the first time since 2019.
In addition to its veterans, Boston is looking for its homegrown talent to be a big part of 2023 and the future. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck have both been dynamic arms since debuting in 2021. Brayan Bello and Triston Casas made their Major League debuts in 2022, and both players are expected to be key pieces for the Red Sox in 2023. Although they aren’t ready to make an impact in 2023, Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, Miguel Bleis, and Ceddanne Rafaela all expect to be big parts of the future.
Since taking over control of baseball operations in 2019, Chaim Bloom had previously failed to commit to building around any of his star players. Now, with Devers under contract through 2033, Boston finally has its face of the franchise player and will need him to lead them through a new era of Red Sox baseball.