Trading Rafael Devers is a Terrible Idea

Feaured image courtesy of (June 18, 2018 – Source: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

The Boston Red Sox are quickly approaching the MLB trade deadline, and everyone is looking for the Red Sox to make a big splash for the second half of the season. However, the Red Sox farm system is rather depleted, and the Red Sox may not have the minor league talent to trade for a big name. They do, however, have 21-year old third baseman, Rafael Devers.

Devers name has come up in trade talks for Manny Machado and Brad Hand. With five years of team control left, Devers makes for an incredibly valuable trade chip. In spite of that,  trading Rafael Devers would be a terrible decision with drastic consequences. Neither Machado nor Hand is worth acquiring if it means Devers has to go.

Trading Rafael Devers Is the Wrong Move

Devers in the Field

First off, let’s take a look at what Rafael Devers brings to the table, starting with his glove. The biggest flaw in Devers’ game is easily his work in the field. After 69 games, Devers leads the Red Sox by a considerable margin with 14 errors. The underlying stats back up the error count, as Devers looks lost for weeks at a time on defense.

However, he’s not hopeless. Most of Devers errors come on fairly routine plays. While that’s obviously not ideal, Devers has actually shown the penchant to make some truly amazing plays. He has a rocket for an arm and has great range and reflexes when a ball is hit hard at him. Basically, when he’s given no time to think, he almost always makes the play.

This implies that Devers fielding problems are due to mental lapses. This is encouraging news because these mental lapses should clear as he gets older. He’s one of the youngest players in the majors, and he was promoted for his bat, not his glove. Defensive struggles were expected, and it should be a fixable problem moving forward.

Devers at the Plate

Offensively, Devers plays like an incredibly talented 21-year old. Like any young player, Devers has peaks and valleys in production as he adjusts to major league pitching. He went through a month-long slump in May, which soured a lot of people off his potential. However, this short-sighted judgment is doing a great disservice to the hitter Devers can be, and the hitter he already is.

Devers has turned his season around in a major way the past few weeks. Since June 6th, Devers is hitting for a .327 AVG/.340 OBP/.577 SLG slash line, good for a 147 wRC+. He’s hit four doubles and three home runs in that timeframe, reaching base in 12 out of a possible 13 games.

He’s hitting the ball in the air more than ever, and he’s making the best contact of his career. Basically, the game’s slowing down for him, and he’s still nowhere close to his ceiling. His walk rate is still low, and he still chases too many pitches. Once he learns to swing at better pitches he’ll be one of the best hitters in the lineup. With how fast he’s developed, it’s safe to assume he’ll make these additional adjustments sooner, rather than later.

Devers for Machado

If Devers reaches his ceiling, he can be just as good as Baltimore Orioles shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado. Devers probably won’t reach that in 2018, so why wouldn’t the Sox give up Devers to get Machado? From a certain viewpoint, this logic makes sense. However, the logic falls apart the second you put thought into it.

For one, Machado is on the final year of his contract. He’s about to strike it rich, and half a season of Machado is not worth giving up five years of Devers. The current Oriole is one of the best players in baseball, and he will have no shortage of suitors when free agency finally approaches.

In order for this trade to make even the slightest bit of sense, Boston would need to resign Manny Machado. Doing that would take an absurd amount of money, and quite frankly, the Red Sox cannot afford to pay it. They already have the highest payroll in baseball and are set to have several key players test free agency in the next two years. As it is, it’s going to be difficult bringing everyone back before factoring in Machado’s payday.

Even if the Sox were able to match Machado’s leaguewide asking price, there’s no guarantee he’d stick around. Machado and the Red Sox have a checkered past, with tension climaxing during the great Dustin Pedroia slide fiasco of 2017. Additionally, Machado has openly spoken about joining the Yankees in 2018, so his heart is already set on leaving. New York has never struggled to match a free agents asking price, and they probably won’t cheap out on Machado.

Basically, the Sox can’t afford to sign Machado, and Machado doesn’t even want to play in Boston. Even if he did, he would take up a massive salary, which would almost certainly mean the Red Sox wouldn’t be able to resign one of their own young stars. Regardless of circumstance, it’s not worth giving up five and a half years of a cost-controlled Devers for a half season rental of Machado.

Devers for Hand

While Manny Machado is about to strike it big in free agency, San Diego Padres reliever Brad Hand is under contract until 2021. While this wouldn’t be a rental by any means, he’s still not nearly worth what Rafael Devers is.

Put as simply as possible, a good to great third baseman is far more valuable than a great reliever. Devers has already shown that he’s a good major league third baseman, and he’s only going to get better as he gets older. Nobody’s denying Hand is a great reliever, but that’s all he is. Trading five seasons of Devers for three and a half seasons of Hand is a terrible decision and should be avoided at all costs.

All of this is a long way of saying that the best version of the Red Sox includes Rafael Devers. The kid has incredible talent and is already recovering from his early season skid. Trading him for a half season of Machado or three years of a bullpen arm is terrible value. While there are some other trades the Red Sox could make, Rafael Devers should be off-limits.

Dave Latham

Engineer by day, sportswriter by night. Follow me @DLPatsThoughts

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