Rafael Devers’ $313.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox has come under scrutiny after a lackluster first year. While he may not have the worst $300 million contract in baseball, that distinction belongs to the injury-prone Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees. However, if it weren’t for Stanton, Devers could easily claim that title.
The Red Sox were desperate to hold onto their homegrown stars after losing Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Devers took advantage of this desperation and secured a 10-year deal that was generally well-received. It was seen as a sign that the Red Sox were willing to invest in their future.
But signing Devers to such a massive contract always carried risks. He is a big and barrel-chested player who is not guaranteed to stay healthy, even in his 20s. His defensive consistency is questionable, often grading as a trainwreck over the course of a full season. This means that his value must come from his bat, and aside from a breakout 2019 season, he has only been solidly above average.
Devers’ lack of big hits in the past year is concerning. While veteran Justin Turner carried the offense for stretches, Devers never found that otherworldly zone where he could carry the team. Even when he hit 10 home runs in April, it felt out of rhythm and his overall production seemed like empty calories. His underlying numbers may be strong, but he is paid for actual production, not theoretical potential.
Furthermore, Devers’ defense has been wretched, leading to speculation that he may need to move to the designated hitter position full-time. He has led American League third basemen in errors for a record sixth straight year and has shown moments of being lost on the field. This raises doubts about his long-term viability at the position.
The Red Sox have consistently touted Devers as the centerpiece of their future team, but it’s worth questioning whether he truly is a franchise player or if he is simply paid like one. Compared to other players making at least $300 million, Devers ranks lower in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over the last three years. Only Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton have lower WAR numbers.
While Trout’s injuries have affected his playing time, Devers deserves credit for playing through nagging injuries and maintaining a relatively high number of games played. However, he still falls behind other WAR leaders such as Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, and Gerrit Cole.
Other players near Devers on the list have boosted their resumes in different ways. Bryce Harper is not only a game-changing talent but also a culture-changing one for the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite a move to first base following elbow surgery, Harper remains valuable and has a strong postseason resume.
Corey Seager, the World Series MVP, has proven himself as a franchise player for the Texas Rangers. He bounced back from a rough debut season and led the Rangers to their first championship. Seager’s performance and accolades put him in an exclusive club of Hall of Famers.
In contrast, Devers is seen as a complementary star rather than a franchise player