The Mets are reportedly investigating the trade market for pitching help. Depending on how things go with center fielder Brandon Nimmo, could they also turn to the trade market to supplement the offense?
That’s always a possibility. One would imagine general manager Billy Eppler and his front office are keeping an open mind on multiple possibilities. One I hadn’t considered is the Mets acquiring third baseman Rafael Devers in a trade with the Boston Red Sox.
A deal like this would be the definition of a stunner, don’t you think? And, no — I didn’t come up with this idea. Mike Axisa of CBS Sports recently shared his top trade candidates this winter. Devers, who is set to become a free agent after 2023, is listed sixth on the list. New York was one of the three possible landing spots he mentioned.
Boston is trying to extend its 26-year-old star slugger this winter. That’s proving to be a tricky situation for Chaim Bloom and Co., though. The Red Sox offered something along the lines of Matt Olson’s eight-year, $168 million extension last spring, which didn’t lead to an agreement. After fellow third baseman Austin Riley secured $212 million from the Atlanta Braves, that’s likely a starting point for Devers’ reps.
Would they actually let him reach free agency? The prospect of such a thing happening to Xander Bogaerts sounded outlandish last offseason, too. But now he’s on the open market.
Devers just turned 26 years old at the end of October. He’s built quite an offensive resume since debuting in 2017. The left-handed hitter owns three seasons of 4.0 fWAR and four performances of 20-plus home runs. His 139 homers and 187 doubles make him and Ted Williams the only hitters in Red Sox history with at least 120 dingers and 150 two-baggers before turning 26.
A guy with his kind of offensive resume and relative youth is going to get paid. One would imagine it could be in the vicinity of 10 years and $300 million. And heck, if the Mets don’t re-sign Nimmo to play center field, installing Devers into the everyday lineup sure would help the offense.
The three questions that come to my mind when thinking about this possibility — which seems like just speculation — are as follows:
Locked into another huge deal? Team owner Steve Cohen already has one decade-long contract worth more than $300 million on the books with shortstop Francisco Lindor. Does he really want to have two of those? We know he can afford anything he wants, but this may not be something on his to-do list.
If there’s a player to commit this much money to, though, it’d be Devers in this situation. He’s a proven elite contributor at the MLB level. And at his age, the likelihood of getting above-average production for the majority of years seems higher than in other scenarios.
But still, for a team with lots of roster holes to fill, it’d be tough to justify locking up around $60 million per year on the left side of New York’s infield. This leads me to my next question…
How long can Devers stick at the hot corner? Devers is known for his bat. That’s where virtually all of his on-field value comes from. Using his glove at third base is more of a question mark, especially when thinking about five, six, and seven years from now.
Conor Roche of Boston.com said the Red Sox believe Devers will eventually transition to first base or designated hitter. That’s not crazy to think about when looking at advanced defensive statistics. Maybe he can hang at the hot corner for the next few years after seeing his progress from 2021 to 2022, though.
Devers posted -14 Outs Above Average (OAA) in 2021. This past season, that number improved drastically to -2 OAA. It’s still on the wrong side of zero, but if his defense is a wash, that’ll allow the offensive value to truly shine.
What’s needed to make a trade? If Boston can’t reach a long-term deal with Devers, it’s not like they’re going to give him away, folks. This is also considering the fact that the Red Sox would entertain the idea of trading him in the first place.
Not counting Jeff McNeil, the Mets have at least three dudes who can play third base in 2023. This would include Eduardo Escobar, Mark Vientos, and Brett Baty. The last two are top organizational prospects who debuted last season, but Baty is the crown jewel.
Would you give him up in a trade? You hate to deal away a top prospect the franchise just developed all the way to the big leagues. To get one of the game’s top hitters who still hasn’t played through his physical prime, it’d be a worthy gamble to take. Especially for a win-now team like the Mets.
A hypothetical package would be more than just Baty, but he’d have to be the centerpiece.
How realistic is this? Similar to the Mets’ infatuation with Trea Turner, this feels more like fantasy than reality. It’s great to have the game’s richest owner because these hypotheticals are technically within the realm of possibility. But still, New York isn’t just going to spend for the sake of spending — there needs to be a plan in place.
They’ll also have to pay other dudes at some point. You know, there’s this guy named Pete Alonso who will need a new contract if the Mets want him to stick around in Flushing.
Devers would be an incredible offensive upgrade for the Mets. But between the above factors, watching him land at Citi Field this winter just doesn’t seem like a legitimate possibility. It is fun to dream about, though.