Maximizing a team's total production is key to winning. As of today, the Red Sox have a huge issue on defense. We have played our young 3B Devers at 3B despite his massive errors. Nobody takes issue with his value on offense but clearly their is a huge problem that has been ignored for 4 seasons, what to do defensively with Devers.
Many argue that he's not that bad but that isn't what the numbers tell us. He's been the 3B with the highest rate of errors since the day he got promoted to the Red Sox. During his 381 games at 3B Devers has made 74 errors in 1034 chances for a fielding percentage of .928. During that time league average fielding at 3B has been .958, 30 points higher than Devers average. Most people don't consider this a problem because they like Devers but I guarantee the pitchers don't appreciate the errors, especially in tight games. What they appreciate even less is when he does his patented cut across in front of Bogey when Bogey is ready to handle a routine ground ball and he fields it and throws across his body and the runner is safe. That hit goes against the pitcher. Yes, the action by Devers improves his range factor with respect to defensive metrics but his action hurts the team, specifically the pitcher's ERA if that run scores because it should have been an out. That run is earned despite it being a routine ground out to Xander that got diverted into a misguided attempt by our young 3B. Most people don't take the time to realize that not making those routine plays for Xander also hurts his fielding metrics by eliminating a sure chance for an out to be added to his fielding percentage. So while many love Devers' enthusiasm and think he has great range due to the metrics, in fact, he's not just hurting the team he's hurting the pitcher's ERA and Bogey's metrics as a shortstop.
Devers played three years in the minors and had fielding percentages of .905 in 2014 when he was 17 years old, .941 at age 18 and .951 as a 19 year old which made it appear as if Devers was on his way to being a better 3B, possibly even league average if the improvement could be continued. Unfortunately, that didn't happen but he still got promoted for his hitting. At age 20 his fielding percentage was .917 prior to his promotion to the Red Sox where his fielding percentage was .906. In 2018, the year we won a ring, his fielding percentage for the Red Sox .926 when league average was . 958. His bad fielding led to a benching in August and two short tours in the minors to improve his fielding. Those two stints in 2018 when he was in the minors produced a fielding percentage of .846, worst yet and a sign of his undeniable inconsistency as a fielder. In 2019, Devers recovered from his .240 average in 2018 and hit .311 leading many to believe he has all-star potential. His fielding finished the highest ever in 2019 at .949. So after fielding in the Red Sox organization for 6 full seasons his fielding percentage had climbed to within 9 points of league average. With his new hitting level folks were ok with his below league average fielding and suggested some very silly things like he was just like Boggs, he was just like Adrian Beltre and several other past players who started terribly at 3B and ended up above league average. The problem is those comparisons were fiction, Devers was the worst fielder in the league from the day he joined the MLB team at 3B. In 2020 he convinced everyone with his mind boggling 14 errors in 57 games and if it weren't for some very friendly scorers his total should have been near 20. So is he simply starting his career badly or is he simply a terrible fielder based on the numbers? The following comparisons should give insight into that question.
The Boggs comparison was a terrible one since he was much better than folks remember He played from1982 through 1999, 18 years. Boggs unlike Devers started at 24 not 17 and only had two seasons where his fielding was under league average, Devers now has four at age 23. In 1983 his second year Boggs had a fielding percentage of .947 when league average was .955 so he was 8 points below league average which happens to be 1 point less than Devers' best year when he was 9 points below league average. Boggs in 1999 at age 41 had his second season under league average at .942 when league average was .950. Once again at age 41 he was 8 points less than league average and Devers' best year is 9 points below league average. I think it's safe to say that the Boggs comparison was an inappropriate comparison. Boggs was a far better fielder than Devers and yet his career shows he was only slightly above league average which speaks volumes to how incredibly bad Devers' has been.
The Beltre comparison is better because he started like Devers at 17. At 17 his fielding percentage was .932 compared to Devers' .905. At 18 Beltre was at .895 much below Devers' .941 and at 19 Beltre's number was .910 then he got promoted to the Dodgers where it was .925 in 74 games. His promotion came a year before Devers was to be promoted to the Red Sox at age 20. Devers at 19 was still in the minors and had his best year fielding with a .951 fielding percentage. At age 21, Beltre jumped his to .944 and Devers started his 21 year old season in the minors with a .917 fielding percentage then got promoted to the Red Sox and had a .906 fielding percentage. At comparable ages and a year ahead of Devers Beltre was climbing toward league average while Devers' fielding was backing up to numbers comparable to age 17. At age 22 Beltre and Devers were both in the majors and Beltre had a fielding percentage of .952 which was 2 points above league average. Devers' had .949 his best so far and again only 9 points below league average. Their fielding percentages seem to be converging so one might think that this comparison has some merit. Then came their 23 year old seasons. Beltre started to build some consistency in his numbers posting a .954 fielding percentage and Devers just posted an .891 fielding percentage once again falling to levels he established at age 17. Beltre went on to improve at 24 years old then suddenly at age 25 he finally came in above league average with a .978 and established a new plateau for his fielding between .965 and .978. He stayed in that range for most of the rest of his career and won gold gloves on his name more than his numbers. His hitting allowed him to be considered a gold glove player and that could have been in Devers' future if he had ever been able to maintain an upward trend for more than 2 years. He's now finished 7 seasons in the minors and the majors. His major league fielding percentage is currently .928 whereas Beltre finished his career at .960 and Boggs finished at .962. Devers' minor league fielding percentage is .937 so he's not improving as time passes as so many suggest.
I have nothing against Devers but his numbers don't lie. I did research on the worst 3Bs of all time and I was shocked to find Butch Hobson on the list at .926. He started over 100 games for Boston 3 times and got traded for his bad defense. Devers has 2 seasons over 100 games and two partial seasons with .906 and .891. At some point the front office must do what's best for the team, especially the pitchers. Devers' defensive skills limit him to DH, unless someone could train him to be a 1B or OF. We have JD so Devers' defense is very much like Price's contract, it's an albatross that must be dealt with.
My suggestion is trade JD and his large contract but that won't be easy considering his recent performances. We could trade Devers but we'd need an elite pitcher for him. That way the money under the cap can be focused on our hole at 3B. SPs we should seek include DeGrom, Nola, Paddack and others who can be considered #1 or #2 SPs with Sale. Personally, I prefer to move JD if possible but something has to give with all the shoddy defense by Devers. That's not how teams win championships. Defense and pitching still are keys to winning. We only have one significantly below average fielder and we need to fix that. Moving him to DH seems like the inevitable answer or simply live with all the errors. It's ironic that folks argue to keep JBJ when his hitting has been atrocious for years but his fielding is so good it makes up for it. Devers' fielding is much farther below league average than JBJ's is above league average so how can we justify keeping Devers at 3B?