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Red Sox avoid arbitration with Rafael Devers

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It looked shaky for a bit, but they got it done.

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

Friday was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players around the league to exchange figures for potential arbitration hearings. For the Red Sox, they had already agreed to one-year deals with all but one of their arbitration-eligible players back in December. The one player remaining, though, was also the most important in Rafael Devers. Today was an unofficial deadline to get that done before potentially going to a hearing. We won’t bury the lede anymore, though, as they did indeed get things done. The news didn’t come through until well after the deadline, but they did indeed get it done. The 2021 salary is reportedly $4.575 million.

This is a very good thing for the Red Sox that they did not end up going to a hearing with one of the most important players in their organization. It wouldn’t have been too much of a surprise, as we’ve discussed before. The first year of arbitration is very important for a player’s future salaries, as arbitration builds on previous seasons. You can never make less than the year before through arbitration, so the first year really sets a baseline. A difference of a couple million dollars in the first year can become a massive difference as you get further into your career.

So that part of it alone would have made it seem possible that a hearing could have come into play. Then you have to factor in the shortened 2020 season. Arbitration is a, frankly, archaic process that is based heavily on precedents set by similar players in previous years. Precedent is, of course, harder to come by after such an abnormal season. This is why MLB Trade Rumors, who has long been the best in the business and publicly projecting arbitration salaries, did three different projections for all arbitration-eligible players this season instead of the normal one.

But despite that, the Red Sox did come to a deal with Devers, and one that certainly seems to favor the team. On those aforementioned projections from MLB Trade Rumors linked above, this salary comes in on the lower end of what they were calling for. It is also worth mentioning that while this deal is in place and the two sides won’t go to a hearing, that doesn’t mean they can’t discuss a long-term deal this winter as well. Presumably those talks wouldn’t really begin until the rest of the roster is put together, but once the focus is on that I imagine there will at least be some conversations regarding a longer term deal for Devers.