Rafael Devers Ready to Be Face of Red Sox If Mookie Betts Is Traded Away

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2019

BOSTON, MA - JULY 17: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox has his helmet removed by Mookie Betts #50 after hitting a go-ahead solo home run during the third inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 17, 2019 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Rafael Devers is the most exciting young player on the Boston Red Sox.

Soon, he may take on another title: the face of the franchise.

After going 2-for-4 with a home run in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians, the 22-year-old third baseman is hitting .327 with a .954 OPS.

Tack on his 6-for-6 performance in a 7-6 win over the Tribe on Tuesday, and he became the first Red Sox player in 81 years to record a hit in eight straight plate appearances. In that 6-for-6 outing, he also became the first player in MLB's modern era to notch six hits with four doubles.

He leads MLB in hits (160) and is tied for the lead in doubles (43).

To state the obvious, the kid can rake.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Red Sox have endured an up-and-down season. They hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy in 2018, but they're now buried in third place in the American League East at 64-59, 17.5 games back of the archrival New York Yankees. With 39 games to go, they aren't even in the second wild-card position.

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter recently ranked their farm system last in MLB.

It soon may be time for major change in Boston. 

During a recent appearance on Fox Sports' MLB WhiparoundMLB.com's Jon Morosi hinted at the possibility of the Red Sox taking offers for right fielder and reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts.

"I was told by sources today that there is a belief in the industrynow, this is not coming from the Red Soxbut they believe at this point in time that the Red Sox will at least listenyes, listento trade offers for Mookie in the winter. ... Not saying there's going to be a deal, but from what I've been told by sources today, there's a pretty strong belief at least Mookie will be available."

There's plenty of wiggle room in that statement. Betts is 26 years old and is under club control through 2020. But as Mike Axisa of CBS Sports outlined, the Red Sox could find a partner such as the prospect-rich Atlanta Braves willing to surrender blue chips for a player of Betts' caliber.

Boston may hang on to Betts and go through the arbitration process one more time (he's making $20 million this season). Or maybe the Red Sox will push hard for an extension, although that seems unlikely considering Betts rejected an eight-year, $200 million extension following the 2017 campaign.

If the Red Sox decide to trade him for a gaudy MiLB haul, consider Devers his heir apparent.

No, Devers doesn't boast the same track record as Betts, who has made four All-Star teams and won a trio of Gold Gloves in addition to his MVP. If Betts exits via trade or free agency, it'll hurt. A lot.

Yet Devers is hitting the cover off the ball, won't reach arbitration until 2021 and hasn't entered his prime. 

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

If you're a Sox fan seeking reasons to be excited, here's one. 

"I mean, Devers is in one of those streaks right now where it looks like he's playing softball," Indians skipper Terry Francona told reporters after he opted to intentionally walk Devers on Wednesday in the seventh inning, immediately before Xander Bogaerts blasted a three-run homer. 

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a succinct take after the same game: "It's fun to watch."

There are other stars in Beantown: Bogaerts, ace Chris Sale, outfielder Andrew Beintendi, designated hitter/outfielder J.D. Martinez, etc. And the Red Sox could technically do what it takes to keep Betts while enjoying Devers' emergence if they're willing to spend, spend and spend some more.

But if Betts eventually does leave Boston, Devers looks like he's ready to shoulder the mantle of The Guy. The player the Red Sox can lean on when the going gets tough.

It's an impressive list if you go back. Ted Williams. Jimmie Foxx. David Ortiz.

Devers isn't nearly there, but he could join hallowed ranks.

"He's not only one of the best players on our team, but one of the best players in the league," Sale told reporters. "He's got a chance to be the MVP."

That's high and worthy praise. It matters now.

It'll matter a lot more if (when?) Betts is traded or walks away.


All statistics and standings current as of Wednesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.