As I sat on my couch watching Rafael Devers make another error (his sixteenth) in the Red Sox’ 7-to-3 loss to the Astros Tuesday night, I thought to myself “This sucks”. And it does! It sucks that the Red Sox’ franchise cornerstone has completely lost his way defensively. It sucks that this season is going down the tubes. A lot sucks. With that being said, people need to relax.
All season, but especially in the last few weeks, there have been countless calls to move Devers and/or Masataka Yoshida to DH next season. My colleague Jake Reiser even wrote a great piece about it (read that HERE). And while Jake absolutely makes some good points, I have to say that I disagree.
Shortly after Devers’ error on Tuesday, I tweeted this:
And while the format of that tweet is obviously a joke, the sentiment is not. Let me first get the Yoshida part of it out of the way. Here in the dog days of summer, Masa has entered quite a slump with his bat. His OPS has fallen almost 100 points since it peaked at .887 on July 25th. The transition to the brutal MLB schedule is clearly hitting him hard. I’m honestly not too worried about the bat long-term, as we all saw what June and July were like for him. As for his defense, Masa is athletic enough to stick around in Fenway’s left field. Frankly, much worse outfielders than Yoshida have done it. So long as his bat comes back around, he should be just fine out there for the next four years.
The implications on the 2024 roster if Devers needs to DH are also quite ugly. Justin Turner has been vital to the Red Sox offense this year and letting him walk is not something I would be happy to do. Turner is old, sure, but he has been Boston’s only consistent right-handed bat.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room, Rafael Devers, third baseman. I’ll make this as clear as I can: the Boston Red Sox cannot pay someone with an ~.875 OPS $31 million a year to be their designated hitter. Especially when that someone is only 27-years-old. They need to exhaust every option possible before they make that decision.
Let me make another thing clear: Rafael Devers does not need to be a gold glove third baseman for this to work. Trevor Story, now finally healthy, will be right next to Devers at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Story has been a plus defender his entire career, and nothing he’s shown in his few weeks back would seem to indicate that’s going to change. This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off Devers and should allow him to simplify his game quite a bit.
This next bit is something that people often forget. Rafael Devers is, believe it or not, still young! Younger than almost half of the 412 players that have made their MLB debuts in 2023. Devers’ debut at the ripe age of 20 and massive contract extension at 26 have skewed people’s views of his development. Am I saying that Devers is going to suddenly turn into a platinum glover at 27? No, of course not. But he could still take a jump, big or small. Devers is clearly motivated to live up to his contract and his frustration with all of this is evident. Perhaps an offseason focused completely on defense could solve some problems.
If Devers’ defense goes another year or two without improving at all, maybe I could begin to be convinced that a move is necessary. But right now? With the way the roster is constructed and Devers’ age and contract? No way. He should just simply play better defense.