It’s always fun to dream on future BIIIIIGGGGG-time free agents who are going to hit the market, and what their pursuits might look like. Of course, as we’ve seen this offseason, those pursuits don’t always involve the Cubs, and even when they do, they often don’t end the way you’d hope.
The other thing to keep in mind, as we’ve also seen, is that sometimes that big-time free agent never actually hits the market. Even as close as a year out from free agency – in fact, often exactly a year out from free agency – the team and the player are finally able to get together on an extension that keeps a star player with his original team (or, say, the team that just traded for him) for so long that he’ll never have another interesting free agency.
All that stuff combined is why I haven’t been able to get excited yet about the possibility of a Shohei Ohtani free agency next year, even as much as I would desperately want Ohtani on the Cubs. What are the odds he actually hits free agency? And if he does, what are the odds the Cubs will be involved at the price level he’ll command? I talked a lot about trading for Ohtani early in the offseason, when that seemed like a remote possibility, because I kinda felt like that was the only plausible path to getting him long-term. Any team trading for Ohtani was going to do so knowing that they MUST be willing to make him a massive extension offer almost immediately. Doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen now, so the question is going to shift back to the Angels and their imminent sale. The new owners are probably going to buy the team on the thinking that they MUST be willing to make him a massive extension offer almost immediately.
Anyway, all of this is stuff that is related to the more recent topic of discussion: the Red Sox’s efforts to extend superstar third baseman Rafael Devers. It remains a priority, and probably even more so in the wake of Xander Bogaerts heading to San Diego:
Here’s the money quote from Heyman: “The Red Sox were offering Devers in the mid $200Ms after already bumping it quite a bit, but now his $300M asking price seems reasonable. After all, he’s four years younger than Bogaerts.”
Age is a key component of extension talks with Devers, as he’ll play all of next season at age 26, and thus would be hitting free agency with three full seasons available before he even turns 30. The bat is outstanding (.292/.352/.532/132 wRC+ the last four seasons), though the glove rates out at below average at third base. Still, it was good enough to net him at least 4.2 WAR in each of his last three full seasons. In this market, even on an extension, the argument for $300+ million would seem pretty darn easy.
I tend to think if the two sides are as close as, say, $250 million and $300 million, they’re going to be able to close that gap before the offseason is over. Which, if so, really sucks for the upcoming free agent class, already thin on star-level talent. That, in turn, is a reminder that you can sign star-level talent only when it is actually available to sign. I know that can sting in terms of the aging curves, and competitive timelines, but if you wait for the next class or the next class, you might just find yourself always waiting.
You might have hoped, given his age and the Cubs’ long-term opening at third base, that they would be in on Rafael Devers next offseason. Well, they might not even get a chance.