Eleven days before Christmas, all the fancy restaurants in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, must have been fully booked. When someone finally called the InterContinental Real Santo Domingo, the staff vacated part of the hotel for an undisclosed meeting so the Red Sox could quietly offer Rafael Devers the biggest contract in franchise history. agreed to close on
The club had been in talks with Devers since the spring of 2021, but the urgency of a long-term deal peaked last week when Xander Bogaerts agreed to an 11-year deal with the Padres. A member of the baseball operations department suggested to owner John Henry that his attendance at an in-person meeting with Devers would be of great benefit to the third baseman’s eyes.
Henry provided not only his attendance but also his private plane.
and his checkbook.
On the morning of December 14, Henry flew to Santo Domingo with Red Sox President Sam Kennedy, Chief Baseball Officer Chime Bloom, General Manager Brian O’Halloran and Assistant General Manager Eddie Romero. The group was joined by manager Alex Cora, who flew separately from Puerto Rico. At 3pm, the group met with his Devers and his agent, Nelson Montes de Oca, plus three top executives from the REP 1 baseball sports agency. In the closed section of the Intercontinental, the staff served unexpected guests appetizers and Presidente beers while Henry spoke directly with the young third baseman who signed as a 16-year-old prodigy and became one of the best hitters in the world. provided. sports. Henry offered his Devers his $300 million contract for the first time.
“His eyes got as big as when he sees a fastball in the middle,” Cora said. was.
The Red Sox scheduled flights and booked hotels in hopes of a quick resolution. According to multiple people in the room and the organization, the Red Sox walked away from in-person meetings believing Devers wanted a deal and would never have a better chance to make it happen. In a way, it was now or never.
Within three weeks, the Red Sox were in the framework of a 10-year, $313.5 million contract extension that became official Wednesday. This is the 10th largest contract in baseball history.
“We always felt like he was a $300 million player,” Montes de Oca said. “And that was our goal. When he got the OK to cross the $300 million barrier, we felt like we got something.”
The Red Sox first spoke with Devers about a long-term deal in the spring of 2021. These negotiations were ultimately unsuccessful and carried over into the 2021 season. They resumed in the spring of 2022 when the Red Sox made an offer based on Matt Olson’s eight-year, $168 million extension with Atlanta.
It was not enough to initiate negotiations.
Olson had previously been used as a comparison for the Devers arbitration, so there was some logic in taking him as an extended frame of reference, but the Red Sox ultimately offered more. After all, their initial offer was so far from what Devers wanted that the two didn’t even negotiate. It was more of a conversation than a negotiation.
Montes de Oca said of early talks, “We talk, but we don’t move at all.”
Cora called Devers into the manager’s office at Yankee Stadium on opening day last season to see if he was flustered by the lack of moves toward an offer and a deal.
“He was like, ‘Alex, I’m making ($11.2 million). If you can’t live on that, what am I going to do?'” Cora said. “When we had that conversation, at some point, we had a pretty good idea that we were going to get something done before 2023 started.”
The truth is, Devers never wanted to be a free agent. He signed with the Red Sox as a teenager in 2013 and has grown with the organization. The club was filled with coaches and executives he came to consider friends and mentors. He didn’t want to short change, but he didn’t want to leave either.
“This is the organization that gave me everything,” Devers said. “That was a factor, but free agency isn’t easy. It’s a tough process. I just didn’t want to go through that.”
When the Red Sox missed the playoffs last season, assistant general manager Romero flew to the Dominican Republic to celebrate Devers’ 26th birthday on Oct. 24. He headed from the airport to Devers’ property and landed on his property near the pool. Javier Hernández, Manager of the Dominican Academy, and Alberto Mejia, Assistant to his Director of Latin American Operations, were with him. Romero brought a birthday cake and Devers showed off his prized peacocks, goats and chickens. Romero said no formal offers were discussed that day, but Devers asked penetrating questions about the team’s direction and the club’s willingness to spend.
“We knew the number one point Rafi wanted to make here,” Romero said. “But (he was) also serious about getting a fair deal.”
The Red Sox made a new offer during the postseason. Braves third baseman Austin Riley said he signed a 10-year, $212 million contract in August, and Red He offered the Sox a similar but larger deal. That still wasn’t enough for him to hit the $300 million threshold and reach an agreement, but it began to shift the conversation towards actual negotiations. The ownership gives baseball operations the financial leeway to increase their offers as needed, and team president Kennedy estimated that both sides had submitted seven or eight counteroffers after the October offer.
When Henry agreed to present the first $300 million offer in person in December, it was Dominican Academy manager Hernandez and Dominican Academy coordinator who tried to book the restaurant for a secret meeting. One was Martin Rodriguez. Rodriguez found a hotel and secured the place. Once there, Henry delivered a message.
“It was a chance for John to speak directly to Rafi, speak directly to his representatives, and encourage all of us to find our way home,” Kennedy said. “It was a big moment, probably the biggest moment in the negotiations.”
Montes de Oca was joined by REP 1 President Peter Greenberg, REP 1 CEO Chris Kolas and REP 1 Executive Vice President Scott Nelson.
“I don’t think[the Red Sox]will go to the Dominican Republic for no reason,” Devers said. “So I had a lot of confidence that it was going to happen.Nelson also reassured me that the work was being put in. I had the feeling that I understood the passion and the amount of work I did towards the game.
Cora said he flew to the meeting strictly “to be at that table when someone tells other people that you’re going to make $300 million.”
The Red Sox thought the offer might be enough to seal the deal on the spot.
“I was hoping it would lead to a fairly quick resolution,” Bloom said.
Just days after a meeting that remained secret for weeks, ESPN reported that negotiations between the Red Sox and the Deavers were “galactic apart.”
Internally, the Red Sox felt they were closer.
Devers didn’t accept their offer, but the conversation in Santo Domingo felt like a turning point for both sides. Each expressed a genuine desire to find a compromise. Devers has made it clear that he doesn’t want negotiations to extend into spring training, and certainly won’t go beyond season opener.
“He knew he had to compromise his values a little bit,” Montes de Oca said. “But it was worth the little compromises he made to be where he wanted to be.”
Believing there was no better chance to seal the deal, the Red Sox set a soft deadline to complete it at the end of the year, with plenty of time until early January. Negotiations were put on hold for the Christmas holidays, but when negotiations resumed the following week, the Red Sox approached them with a sense of urgency now or never.
“We got together and said, ‘Look, if we’re going to do this, we’re probably going to need it sometime this week,'” Bloom said. ‘s social life is like being able to do something on New Year’s Eve.”
On the morning of Dec. 31, the two met via Zoom. An agent for Devers was on the phone, along with Bloom, Kennedy, and O’Halloran. Bloom and O’Halloran are also in nearly constant contact with two of his managers, the Red Sox’s chief financial officer, Tim Zoo, and Alex Gimenez, a money expert in his office at Major League Operations, via Slack, text and phone. We were fighting. The Zoom meeting wasn’t particularly fruitful — we weren’t even close to a resolution yet — but the conversation was what Bloom later called various “levers” that could be pushed and pulled to find common ground. Of course, the number of years and the amount were two measures, but also the amount paid in the contract bonus and the amount paid as deferred money beyond the term of the contract. This was not the time for many voices. It was time for a series of small conversations. Zue and Gimenez exchanged countless messages with each other before working with Bloom and O’Halloran on the implications of the luxury tax, how the deferment would affect the deal, and other details needed to be anchored.
Throughout the afternoon and New Year’s Eve, Bloom and Montes de Oca had many one-on-one discussions on a variety of issues that were of most concern to each of them. They found that some levers could pull slightly in one direction or the other.
“At some point before midnight that night, we hung up,” Bloom said.
Montes de Oca hung up the phone with the same feeling.
“My kids weren’t happy that I was on the phone until at least 11 p.m., and for good reason,” he said. “We love Rafi. This is where he wanted it.”
By New Year’s Day, both sides could feel the momentum building toward an agreement. The extension was not finalized at that point, but the rough run of the final 10-year, $313.5 million deal was coming together. Bloom spent the rest of his January 2nd week spearheading the final stages of negotiations. Later that week, he texted the Red Sox staff to say the deal was done. An agreement has been made. Devers was signing the biggest deal in franchise history.
Romero, who spearheaded an international effort to bring Devers into the organization ten years ago, immediately texted Devers using the “baby face” nickname given to him from the Dominican Republic to Boston. Did.
“Kalita,” Romero said to him, “You are rich!”
The Devers had overtime and the Red Sox had a franchise centerpiece.
“I think the strongest thing you can say after it’s over is relief,” Romero said. “It’s clear that everyone involved is excited, but we’re relieved that we’ve got this sorted out. We know we have the foundational players to build on.”
(Top Photo: Billy Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)