Rafael Devers 2021 Arbitration Deadline (www.mlb.com)

The Red Sox took care of most of their arbitration business in early December, reaching one-year deals with Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Kevin Plawecki and Austin Brice.
That leaves just one player the club needs to find common ground with to avoid the arbitration process, but it’s a

The Red Sox took care of most of their arbitration business in early December, reaching one-year deals with Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Kevin Plawecki and Austin Brice.

That leaves just one player the club needs to find common ground with to avoid the arbitration process, but it’s a core member of the team in third baseman Rafael Devers.

If the Red Sox don’t have a deal in place with their heavy-hitting third baseman by Friday at 1 p.m. ET, the sides will then have to exchange salary-arbitration figures.

Given that Devers is a potential cornerstone in Boston for a long time, it would behoove both sides to try to come to an agreement rather than let an arbitration panel decide.

There are various forms this process can take.

The Sox and Devers could take the most common approach — agreeing to terms by Friday on a one-year deal that would essentially split the difference on what each side would present in the arbitration exchange.

A more appetizing solution would be a multiyear extension that could buy out the remaining three seasons of arbitration-eligibility that Devers has. This would allow Devers to put business completely out of his mind for three seasons and just focus on what he does best — pounding the baseball.

Then there is the best solution of all, but one that surely won’t be able to come together by Friday’s deadline but perhaps would be more realistic by Spring Training, when things are less busy for Chaim Bloom and the front office on the business side of things.

That, of course, would be signing Devers to a long-term extension that would not only buy out the rest of his arbitration years but also perhaps his first couple of years of free agency.

This is the type of deal the Red Sox were unable to make with Mookie Betts, and we all know how that turned out.

Devers is entering his age-24 season. In other words, he has barely scratched the surface of his prime.

The season the left-handed-hitting masher had in 2019 (.311/.361/.555, 54 doubles, 32 homers, 115 RBIs) was arguably the best non-Wade Boggs season any Red Sox third baseman has ever had.

Like many players around baseball, the pandemic-shortened 2020 season did not bring out the best in Devers. His OPS dipped to .793 — 123 points lower than ’19. His batting average tumbled to .263. His defense regressed, as evidenced by 14 errors in 128 total chances.

On the plus side, Devers, at least offensively, emerged from his brutal first 70 plate appearances (.169/.229/.323) to have a much more representative finish (.299/.343/.545) in 178 plate appearances.

The return of manager Alex Cora figures to help Devers more than anyone else. Devers looks at Cora like a father figure who knows how to push the right buttons to get Devers to be the best version of himself.

Keeping Devers on the left side of the infield along with his close friend Xander Bogaerts for the next several years would give the Red Sox some cohesion amid all the recent change.

Bogaerts is signed through 2025, with a vesting option that could keep him in Boston through ’26.

Conversely, Bogaerts has an opt-out clause after the 2022 season. If Bogaerts senses that Devers is going to be in Boston for the long haul, he’ll be less compelled to consider opting out.

The thought of Devers and Bogaerts raking in the middle of the lineup for years to come is one that warms the collective heart of Red Sox Nation.

It remains to be seen if that thought can become reality.

has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.



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