The Red Sox entered the offseason hopeful of re-signing Xander Bogaerts and extending Rafael Devers, locking that pair of dynamic hitters into the heart of the order for the foreseeable future. Instead, Bogaerts signed an 11-year deal with the Padres, and talks with Devers have yet to bear fruit. Devers did agree to a one-year contract with for the upcoming 2023 season yesterday, locking in his salary at $17.5MM, but he was already under club control and the newly agreed-upon pact doesn’t do much to move the needle in long-term talks.
Both Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com report today that talks on a long-term deal have been “steady” in the past few weeks, though. As Cotillo points out, that wasn’t true early in the offseason. Still, the parties have been known to be facing a substantial gap. Devers has reportedly been searching for a deal north of $300MM, and given his age (26) and proximity to free agency (next offseason), that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
If anything, the current offseason’s rash of mega-deals for in-their-prime stars has likely only further hardened Devers’ stance; he doesn’t have the defensive value of players like Trea Turner, Carlos Correa or even Bogaerts, but Devers will be a younger free agent than anyone who agreed to a major contract this winter. Devers will play all of the 2024 season (his first free-agent year) at 27. Turner (30 in June), Bogaerts (already 30) and Correa (who turned 28 in September) are all older, as was Aaron Judge, who inked a nine-year, $360MM contract entering his age-31 season.
Devers, of course, is one of the American League’s best hitters — evidenced by a .292/.352/.532 slash over the past four seasons. He’s twice topped 30 home runs, including a 38-homer campaign in 2021, and was on a roughly 30-homer pace in the shortened 2020 season as well. The primary knock on Devers has been his defensive prowess, or lack thereof, which has prompted some to wonder when a move to first base might become necessary.
The Sox, however, hope to have their first baseman of the future on the cusp of MLB readiness in the form of top prospect Triston Casas. The soon-to-be 23-year-old slugger debuted with a .197/.358/.408 batting line in 95 plate appearances last year, and while the low batting average was obviously discouraging, it came in a small sample. Casas also raked at a .273/.382/.481 clip in Triple-A Worcester over a larger sample of 317 plate appearances.
Casas has come up in trade rumblings recently, thanks to a report from the Miami Herald that the Marlins have inquired about the former first-round pick and Miami-area native in talks involving the Marlins’ stock of young pitchers. However, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe highlights the many reasons that a trade of Casas is decidedly unlikely. As Speier notes, the team’s belief in Casas helped to temper interest in Freddie Freeman during his free agency and also contributed to the Red Sox’ decision to release Eric Hosmer.
Speier writes that the Red Sox are indeed intrigued by adding to the top half of their rotation — as most teams are — but perhaps not at the expense of Casas. The Sox appear willing to move pitchers from their big league roster, per the report, “potentially” even including right-hander Tanner Houck. To be clear, there’s no indication that Houck has been discussed extensively (or at all) with the Marlins or another club, nor is there any suggestion that the Red Sox are outright shopping the 24-year-old righty.
Still, Houck would be an interesting name for other clubs to look into, given that he’s controllable for another five seasons and has pitched to a sharp 3.02 ERA (2.95 FIP) in his first 146 MLB innings. The Sox surely value Houck and would likely only part with him in exchange for a meaningful (and controllable) upgrade elsewhere on the pitching staff or in the lineup. Dealing Houck while simultaneously looking to bring in rotation help is perhaps counterintuitive, but despite rising through the system as a starter, Houck has worked out of the bullpen more than the rotation in the Majors — including making 28 of his 32 appearances in 2022 as a reliever.
If the Sox view Houck primarily as a reliever — GM Brian O’Halloran was somewhat noncommittal on Houck’s 2023 role back in November — there’s some sense in being willing to at least listen to offers. Boston has, after all, added to its bullpen with offseason additions of Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin and Joely Rodriguez but has been less active with regard to the rotation, where Corey Kluber is the lone addition to date. Again, none of this is to say Houck is readily available, but the mere possibility of the team entertaining offers is at least of some note.
Turning to a separate matter entirely, the Sox formally announced their coaching staff for the upcoming season earlier this morning. There are no surprises among the names included. Returning to manager Alex Cora’s staff will be pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Peter Fatse, bullpen coach Kevin Walker, assistant hitting coaches Ben Rosenthal and Luis Ortiz, third base/infield coach Carlos Febles, game-planning/catching coach Jason Varitek, and field coordinator Andy Fox. As reported earlier in the offseason, Ramon Vazquez is the team’s new bench coach, while Kyle Hudson has been hired away from the Guardians as the new first base/outfield coach.