Let the Shohei Ohtani watch begin, now that Red Sox are willing to spend again

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Tomase: Let the Ohtani watch begin now that Sox are willing to spend again originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox told the world they're back in business by signing homegrown All-Star Rafael Devers to an 11-year, $331 million extension, but the only way it means anything long-term is if it's just a start.

It's too late to land an impact free agent this offseason, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the one name that could change everything: Shohei Ohtani.

When the Angels briefly pondered moving the baseball unicorn at the trade deadline, the Red Sox were not considered viable suitors. The same went for their lack of engagement on Juan Soto, who eventually went from the Nationals to the Padres. It was frankly depressing.

The perception was that the Red Sox didn't want to pay for top-end talent, a view reinforced by their bungling of the Xander Bogaerts negotiations.

Tomase: Much to unpack as Sox finally do the right thing with Devers

Signing Devers, however, signals a new start. The Red Sox will pay a superstar. Given the state of their roster -- even with Devers in the fold, it's hard to say they've improved, on the whole, this winter -- they're in no position to wait around for Marcelo Mayer or Miguel Bleis. They're going to need immediate impact talent, and it just so happens that next fall, the most unique player ... ever? ... will hit the market.

Ohtani's exploits speak for themselves. Baseball's best two-way player since Babe Ruth, the Japanese right-hander could legitimately claim a $300 million contract as either a hitter or pitcher. The fact that he plays both roles so insanely well puts his free agency value in completely uncharted territory.

A team could easily pay him $450 million and still win out by obtaining both a bonafide No. 1 starter and heart-of-the-order slugger. Add his worldwide marketability and you're talking about a player who could pay for himself at virtually any price.

At the beginning of the week, we wouldn't have considered the Red Sox serious contenders. Under Chaim Bloom, they simply haven't entered the bidding for superstar talent.

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Devers changes that perception and allows us to think big again. Imagine Ohtani taking the mound every fifth or sixth day. It would be a Fenway event like they heyday of Pedro Martinez. Now imagine him launching rockets over the bullpen like prime David Ortiz. Pedro and Papi in one player? You can't overpay for that.

Of course, paying your own player like Devers before he hits free agency is very different than winning one like Ohtani on the open market. Assuming the Angels fail to re-sign him because of his frustration with all the losing in Anaheim, every deep-pocketed team will be in the hunt.

That means Steve Cohen's limitless resources with the Mets. It means the cunning and ruthless Dodgers. It means the desperate Padres. You can never count out the Yankees, and even the Cardinals have a way of swooping in and surprising us.

But it should mean the Red Sox, too. We're only seven years removed from John Henry and Co. making David Price the highest-paid pitcher in history. They inked Carl Crawford, made a megabucks offer for Mark Teixeira, and once had Alex Rodriguez signed, sealed, and briefly delivered.

It won't be easy. Ohtani wants a winner and the Red Sox will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs. When he searched for a team six years ago, he prioritized playing on the West Coast and in a smaller market, neither condition describing the Red Sox.

Who cares? Money talks, so make it shout. Ohtani will hit the market at age 29. He's two years removed from 46 homers and an MVP award. He's coming off a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. He throws the ball 100 mph and hits it 120.

He's an awesome force of nature, and he could soon be available to everyone. The Red Sox should build off their momentum with Devers and spend every spare second for the next 10 months figuring out how to get him.