What’s Next? Five Questions Red Sox Face After Rafael Devers Deal

Devers reportedly agreed to an 11-year contract extension

The Red Sox quelled some long-term concerns this week by reportedly agreeing to a massive contract extension with Rafael Devers.

Devers was set to enter the final year of his contract, with free agency on the horizon next offseason, and the recent departures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts raised questions over whether Boston would lock up its star third baseman for the foreseeable future. And so, now, the Sox can breathe a little easier.

That said, there’s still work to be done as Boston looks to return to playoff contention in 2023 and beyond. And it starts with solidifying a few areas of the roster that remain in flux.

Here are five questions facing chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and company as the Red Sox navigate down their to-do list in wake of Devers’ reported 11-year deal.

What will the starting rotation look like?
Nathan Eovaldi officially is off the table, signing with the Texas Rangers. So, too, is Rich Hill, who landed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Red Sox added Corey Kluber to the mix, but there’s still a chance Boston will try to bolster its rotation before Opening Day.

As it stands, the Red Sox’s rotation figures to consist of some combination of Chris Sale, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello and Kluber. Tanner Houck is an option, as well, though he might start the year in the bullpen after thriving in a relief role last season.

There really aren’t any high-impact arms remaining in free agency, so Boston should focus on the trade market. The Marlins have been mentioned in rumors (and linked to the Red Sox) thanks to their surplus of starting pitching, with Pablo López, Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera among Miami’s trade candidates, assuming ace Sandy Alcantara and top prospect Eury Pérez are untouchable.

Is Trevor Story the shortstop?
One would think now that Bogaerts is playing for the San Diego Padres. But it’s not etched in stone. Even though moving Story from second base to shortstop (his natural position) makes sense, and long seemed like the fallback plan if Bogaerts left in free agency, there are questions about whether he still has the arm strength to make such a transition. Plus, Story was an elite defender at second base last season.

So, what’s the alternative? Well, the Red Sox could lean on Kiké Hernández. But then you’re essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul, because he’s such an outstanding defender in the outfield. Maybe, then, the Red Sox will explore adding a shortstop, with the Marlins again front and center as Miguel Rojas continues to be kicked around in trade rumors.

Who’s behind the plate?
The Red Sox probably could get away with the combination of Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, which looked capable down the stretch last season, especially if they don’t want to devote significant resources to upgrading the catching position. Still, Wong, a piece of the Mookie Betts trade, has just 70 career major league plate appearances. And McGuire struggled with the Chicago White Sox in 2022 before his trade to Boston. It’s at least worth exploring an upgrade and/or organizational depth options.

Are more contract extensions coming?
Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy acknowledged back in November the organization would like to engage with its young players early and often on possible contract extensions — a lesson learned from the Betts experience that’s been at the forefront this offseason, first with Bogaerts and then with Devers. Of course, it needs to be the right player and the right deal. Much like it was with Garrett Whitlock back in April. But we could see a philosophical change in how the Red Sox approach their homegrown stars in the coming years, to avoid them nearing or entering free agency. Someone like Triston Casas or Bello might be worth keeping an eye on in that regard.

Will Red Sox be aggressive in free agency next offseason?
The Red Sox saved money by not re-signing Bogaerts to a lucrative contract. And they’ll have additional commitments coming off the books after 2023. As such, they might be well positioned to add another core player alongside Devers in the not-too-distant future. Shohei Ohtani, Manny Machado, Max Scherzer, Julio Urías and Aaron Nola are among the top names who could be available in free agency next offseason. And Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Pete Alonso, Shane Bieber, Walker Buehler, Zack Wheeler, Corbin Burnes and/or Brandon Woodruff might hit the open market the following winter.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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