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Red Sox tender contract to Rafael Devers, avoid arbitration with four more

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There was some doubt, but ultimately no one was non-tendered.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday was a big day around baseball as teams had until 8:00 PM ET to decide whether or not they would tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. We previewed these decisions earlier in the week. After Boston and Eduardo Rodriguez agreed to a deal to avoid arbitration on Tuesday, they had five more players for whom they had to make the decision by the deadline on Wednesday. Leading up to the deadline there was some doubt as to whether or not they would tender deals to some in this group, most notably Matt Barnes, but ultimately they decided it was worth keeping them at their arbitration prices. Four players agreed to deals to avoid arbtration while Rafael Devers was tendered a contract with no agreement.

Insofar as there is any “news” from this, it would be the Devers piece of this. What this means is that he is not going to be a free agent, which obviously was never going to happen. However, there was no deal agreed to at this point. That doesn’t necessarily mean too much at this point as they have until February to agree to terms before a trial. They will hopefully be able to get something done by then, preferably something longer term but at least a one-year agreement.

However, that is not a sure thing. This arbitration year is a very important one for Devers since it is his first. If there is no long-term agreement made at any point, the salary he receives for 2021 becomes the baseline for the next three years, as arbitration is heavily based on previous salaries. And with 2020 being so weird, it’s possible that the two sides are quite far apart. Consider that MLB Trade Rumors, the go-to source for arbitration projections, had three separate methodologies to cover all the weirdness of this past season, and Devers’s projections ranged from $3.4 million to $6.3 million. Although $2.9 million doesn’t seem like a huge difference, when it’s setting the baseline moving forward that can be a massive difference in total earnings over a multi-year period. None of that is to say a trial is inevitable or even that it’s likely. They have time to hammer something out. But it’s a situation to monitor for sure.

As for the other four, the details on their agreements are below:

  • Austin Brice received a one-year deal worth $870,000 according to a report from Bob Nightengale. That salary comes in a tad lower than MLB Trade Rumor’s projection based on his 2020 numbers extrapolated over 162 games. Brice pitched to a 5.95 ERA over 19 23 innings last season with 25 strikeouts and 13 walks. He is likely pencilled in as a middle reliever for the time being, and he has no minor-league options remaining.
  • Matt Barnes received a one-year deal worth $4.5 million according to a report from Alex Speier. This salary comes in right around the midpoint of the range of projections from MLB Trade Rumors. Barnes tossed 23 innings in 2020 with a 4.30 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 14 walks. Right now he is the top reliever in the bullpen, though that standing on the depth chart could change over the course of the winter.
  • Kevin Plawecki received a one-year deal worth $1.6 million according to a report from Jon Heyman. That salary is exactly the projection MLB Trade Rumors made strictly off the 60-game production from 2020 with no extrapolation. Plawecki hit .341/.393/.463 (130 OPS+) over 89 plate appearances in 2020. He will be the backup catcher to start 2021.
  • Ryan Brasier received a one-year deal worth $1.25 million according to a report from Mark Feinsand. That salary comes in at exactly the MLB Trade Rumors projection that was based on his 2020 numbers extrapolated over 162 games. Brasier pitched to a 3.96 ERA over 25 innings with 30 strikeouts and 11 walks last season. He is currently in the setup man mix on this roster, but as with Barnes could see his role shift if/when additions are made to the bullpen.