We haven’t heard about too many players avoiding arbitration just yet, as the exchange of requested numbers is still ten days away. In the run-up to that deadline, that’s when you hear about all the various arbitration-eligible guys “avoiding arbitration” by signing a one-year deal with their team.
We did hear about one waaaaay early in the offseason, Shohei Ohtani, which was a unique case because of his singular standing in the game. He and the Angels agreed to avoid 2023 arbitration by signing a one-year, record-setting, $30 million deal. The main reason there was probably just cost-certainty for both sides ahead of an offseason that could see the team sold. But a secondary reason, I’m sure, is so that, on the teeny tiny chance that the Angels engaged in trade talks about Ohtani, the question of his 2023 salary wouldn’t be any kind of factor. Everyone involved would already know the budgetary impact.
Today, we hear about another relatively early arbitration settling, and once again, you could argue there’s a teeny tiny trade-related element:
To be sure, Passan is not wrong that the Red Sox and Rafael Devers working out this arbitration deal for 2023 shows that they are talking. But at the same time, it also locks down cost-certainty for Devers and the Red Sox juuuuuust in case they wind up in trade talks with a team that would prefer not to have the unknown of an arbitration decision to be factored into the trade calculus. It’s just smoother and easier if that contract is already done, and all budget-related decisions can be made without any questions.
Don’t misread me here. I’m not saying this is evidence that the Red Sox are now going to trade Devers. That, to me, still remains a very long shot this offseason. But having this locked down does seem to me like it would have incremental trade value for the Red Sox if that very long shot happened to come to pass.
Recent predictions – mostly to be taken as fun – have the Chicago Cubs landing Devers at some point this year, either at the deadline or in free agency, and I’ll confess to hoping that Devers does not get extended by the Red Sox. Let’s call that a similar long shot: I don’t want Devers to be extended juuuuust in case he does get traded to the Cubs at mid-year (and then extended), or gets signed by the Cubs as a free agent. It’s not like there isn’t an obvious need, fit, and financial ability.