By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- In the world of professional sports, arguably the most cliché line of any cliché line rolls off countless lips countless times every single day: It's a business.
We understand what it means, yes. But given its ubiquity and overuse, the meaning has become a bit foggy.
Red Sox fans are getting a blunt reminder, though, that big league baseball is most certainly a business.
That's the overarching message this week, as reporters have picked away at the unresolved contract situations of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. The duo that has made up the left side of the Red Sox' infield since 2017 has become an integral part of the Boston baseball experience. Yet the latest scuttlebutt provides a clear warning shot that their days in Boston just might be numbered.
On Bogaerts, Jon Heyman reported a massive gulf between the team and the player in terms of a desired contract. That information obviously came from the player's/agent's perspective, with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom declining to comment on the reported numbers. But it nevertheless represents a significant disagreement in the long-term value of Bogaerts, who's been a full-time starter for Boston since 2014, who's made three All-Star teams and won four Silver Sluggers, and who's won two World Series and has certainly become one of the faces of the franchise.
Couple that report with the six-year contract given to Trevor Story, and it's easy to deduce that the Red Sox are preparing for life without Bogaerts following the 2022 season.
On Devers, Jeff Passan suggested on Wednesday that the Red Sox may be hesitant to give the third baseman a long-term contract because they may not consider him a long-term third baseman. The difference in money there, according to Passan, is about $100 million. That's the same gap that Heyman reported on Bogaerts.
Worse, Passan invoked the name of Mookie Betts when describing Devers' situation.
"This thing is playing out in a very, very similar fashion to Mookie Betts," Passan said.
Nobody in Boston needs to be reminded of the Betts situation, when the team traded away the 2018 AL MVP after failing to even come close on an agreement on a long-term contract.
That situation, however, at least made some more sense from a Boston perspective. With Betts ultimately signing a monstrous 12-year, $365 million contact with the Dodgers, it's understandable that the Red Sox wouldn't want to invest that kind of money for that long of a term. The prospect of paying close to $30 million per year to Betts in his late 30s could be considered bad business. As such, the Red Sox made the decision to allocate that money elsewhere.
But the Bogaerts and Devers situations feel different. Or at least, they should feel different.
For one, the money isn't nearly the same. The Red Sox have the money to sign both players, if that is their desire. Bogaerts already took a hometown discount to play on his current contract, and the team has now given a better contract to an outsider in Story. And while the defensive concerns may be valid with Devers, that need not necessarily amount to a $100 million difference of opinion -- not when the player involved is just 25 years old and already has a Silver Slugger, an All-Star start, a World Series win and 113 home runs on his resume.
More significantly than that, though, is an overlooked reality. For as much as the world of professional sports is a cold business, and for as much as the front office's job is to maximize production at the lowest dollar cost, the reality is that fans do have to care about the team in order to be invested in the team. And while the futures of the Red Sox' young prospects aren't yet known, there's still something to be said about maintaining franchise cornerstones, even when doing so costs a premium. (This is a side topic, but with the Red Sox' top prospects all being position players, they could be the ones traded away in order to acquire pitching for a team that has Bogaerts and Devers in the heart of its lineup.)
And essentially giving the boot to beloved foundational players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in a potential span of four years? It's not the type of roster management that endears a team to its city and to its fan base. And it would also send a rather uninspiring message to the young players coming up through the system that even if they exceed all expectations and become veritable stars in the game ... their ultimate career path will send them to another team once their skills demand a certain level of salary.
Again, it's a business. It's a business. It's a business. Everybody knows this. But the business doesn't have to be so dispiriting.
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