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Paying Good Players Is A Good Idea

Let’s hope the Red Sox do it.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
He’s good.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

After a season of doom-and-gloom and hand-wringing, it appears the Red Sox are trying to sign both Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts to extensions. The swiftness with which they have moved to do so implies that this was always the plan, but absent a spill-the-beans piece from someone inside Fenway we’ll never know.

The broader point, though, is that this is good. Signing good players is good. Having better players helps you win games. I was listening to a football podcast last week and Danny Kelly at The Ringer referenced a study that tracked what single advantage teams across all sports can leverage to maximize their productivity, and the answer was blunt and hilarious: Play your best players. Don’t overthink it. Overthinking it is the problem.

The same can be true of paying them. Too many people believe that giving out a large contract to a star is like buying a luxury car, and that it depreciates in value by half the second you drive it off the lot. Depending on the variables, the opposite is usually true. The younger and better a player is when signed to a market-value contract, the quicker the team starts making back the money relative to the market.

This is why the “Imagine what Mookie Betts will cost in 2030!” takes were, and are, so exasperating. First off, by the time 2030 rolls around his exact dollar figure per year won’t rank in the top, what, 25 among players? 50? Inflation will do what it does and the number won’t look so bad anymore, irrespective of performance. This is just math.

But, second, performance happens! Imagine again you buy a luxury car and you drive it for 10 years and it opens all sorts of great worlds to you (or just allowed you to get to work). Are you going to be worried about its resale value in 2030? No! And it’s not even hitting any dingers!

All that said, I am glad the Red Sox have re-adopted the approach of paying for good baseball players. If they have better players, they can play them, and they can win more baseball games. Devers and Bogaerts are good and the team would be better with them on it. That’s all.