Back in business: Rafael Devers, Red Sox finalizing 11-year, $331 million extension

The Boston Red Sox knew they had no choice, and after losing several of their marquee stars in recent years, decided Wednesday to lock up third baseman Rafael Devers.

Devers and the Red Sox are finalizing an 11-year, $331 million contract extension, two high-ranking officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity since Devers has not undergone a physical and the deal is not yet official .

Devers, 26, becomes the highest-paid player in franchise history, and stays with the Red Sox just a month after losing All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to free agency, and three years after trading former MVP Mookie Betts.

Devers now becomes the face of the franchise.

The Red Sox have been in negotiations with Devers for at least a year, and offered about $170 million before last season, and increased it to about $250 million during the season. Yet, with Bogaerts receiving $280 million over 11 years from the San Diego Padres, Trea Turner signing for $300 million with the Philadelphia Phillies and Carlos Correa agreeing to a tentative $315 million deal with the New York Mets, Bogaerts’ value soared this winter.

Rafael Devers made his big-league debut in 2017.
Rafael Devers made his big-league debut in 2017.

The Red Sox had just signed Devers to a one-year, $17.5 million contract for the 2023 season to avoid arbitration on Tuesday, but badly wanted to reach a long-term deal before spring training. The Red Sox ownership group and front office had been besieged with ridicule after Bogaerts’ departure, with fans booing co-owner John Henry on Monday during the NHL Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins at Fenway Park. Besides booing Henry, a fan also brought a sign into the stadium that read, “Pay Devers.’ It was confiscated at the gate.

The fans also responded during the season with ticket sales plummeting and a 35% drop in TV ratings on their network, NESN.

Now, they have made their biggest financial commitment in history with Devers the only star remaining from their 2017 team when he made his major league debut.

“He is someone we want to build around,’’ Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom said at the end of last season.

Certainly, Devers is one of the game’s greatest young stars. He has hit 65 home runs the past two seasons, batting .295 with 27 homers and 88 RBI last year, including a .358 on-base percentage and .521 slugging percentage. He has averaged 33 homers, 107 RBI and 324 total bases per 162 games in his career.

Devers has the sixth-most career homers (139) and fifth-most extra-base hits (333) of any third baseman before turning 26.

“We have to keep those guys,’’ Hall of Famer David Ortiz told USA TODAY Sports last month. “They are franchise players. When you have good players, you know what they’re capable of, you know what they bring to the table, what else do you need?’’

Well, while one departed for San Diego, their youngest star is staying put.

The Red Sox have sent a message to the baseball world.

They are a big-market team. They now are acting like it.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rafael Devers, Red Sox finalizing $331 million contract extension