In a sport with rapidly rising contract lengths and values, it becomes hard to judge a new deal at its outset.
Aaron Judge’s recent nine-year, $360 million pact just set the new benchmark for free agent deals. Mike Trout’s 12-year pact worth $426.5 million still paces Major League Baseball overall.
Another large contract was added to the list this week as the Boston Red Sox came to an agreement on an 11-year contract extension for $331 million with star third baseman Rafael Devers.
Devers is coming off his second consecutive All-Star season and at the age of 26 has plenty of good baseball left. This deal should tie him to Boston throughout the entirety of his prime.
With two seasons of at least 30 home runs already under his belt, the Red Sox clearly are banking on him continuing to show that high offensive upside The contract is one of the largest in MLB history; only six contracts at the moment have more total value.
The Red Sox will need big-money production out of Devers in 2023, the first year of legalized sports betting in Massachusetts.
Sportsbooks don’t seem to be putting much faith in the Sox as spring training nears. DraftKings Massachusetts Sportsbook, an operator based in Boston, has the Red Sox at +7000 the win the series, tied with the Minnesota Twins for 20th-best odds among MLB’s 30 teams.
Devers’ deal also is the largest contract in Red Sox history by more than $100 million. It comes as a bit of a surprise as Boston’s recent track record includes trading Mookie Betts before he hit free agency and letting Xander Bogaerts leave for greener baseball fields when his contract was up.
Now that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, the question becomes more forward looking: Will Devers be worth the money and term committed to him?
Comparing Devers to Other Star Third Basemen
BetMassachusetts.com utilized Baseball-Reference.com to analyze Devers compared to the other star third basemen currently in MLB to get an idea on if he will be worth the money
Let’s look at the numbers:
With 4.4 WAR last season, Devers was one of the top third baseman in the game but as you can see from the chart, there were others providing more value.
Atlanta’s Austin Riley had 6.5 WAR with a salary just over $20 million, giving him the best value per dollar.
Jose Ramirez (Cleveland), Nolan Arenado (St. Louis), Manny Machado (San Diego) and Alex Bregman (Houston) also brought a better value per dollar valuation to the position than the $6,838,843 Devers would have produced had he been on his current contract last season.
Of course, the Red Sox signed Devers with the expectation that he will continue to improve, so it is not entirely fair to judge Devers on his performance while under his old contract.
Looking at the names above him on the list, all except Riley are at least two years older than Devers. with Arenado being a full five years older.
Boston is clearly banking on Devers' improvement continuing for a few years so that he can climb this list and provide full value for his large contract. The Red Sox will certainly need Devers at his best, as even with the 26-year-old back in the lineup, FanDuel Massachusetts lists Boston at +1600 to win the AL East, putting the Sox fourth in the division.
It is impossible to know at this point if Devers will give Boston a performance good enough to justify his massive contract. However, looking at the production of other star third basemen at their ages compared to Devers leaves optimism that he has at least five more years of solid improvement.
It will be interesting to see how Massachusetts betting apps rate Devers as an MVP candidate in the American League.
With one 5.4 WAR season already in 2019, Devers has even more to give and should provide value for at least the first half of his contract.
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