Rafael Devers

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Tomase: Rafael Devers thankful Red Sox didn't trade him for Chris Sale -- and so are we

John Tomase
August 14, 2017 - 10:33 pm
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The Chris Sale trade hinged on Rafael Devers, and Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski stuck to his guns. You want Yoan Moncada? Fine. You want Michael Kopech? He's yours. You want Rafael Devers?

Uh-uh.

Let's give Dombrowski credit, because as much heat as he has taken for stripping the farm system, he has certainly retained the right players. He arrived in Boston with a reputation for rarely getting burned when dealing prospects, and so far so good on that front. He kept left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, outfielder Andrew Benintendi, and Devers, even while saying goodbye to Moncada, Kopech, Anderson Espinoza, and Manuel Margot, to name four. Now all three are key members of the AL East leaders.

Devers had to be the toughest call of all, because he was the player holding up the blockbuster with the White Sox that ultimately delivered Sale, who has embarked on a historic season that could end with a Cy Young and MVP award.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn wanted Devers in addition to Moncada and Kopech, but Dombrowski refused. He recognized the young third baseman's prodigious power, as well as the lack of top-end talent that would remain in the system if he included Devers, too.

The White Sox relented on Devers, settling for Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz as the secondary pieces, much to the retroactive relief of Red Sox fans who watched Devers blast two more home runs in a 7-3 loss to the Indians on Monday night.

For his part, Devers didn't know how close he had come to being dealt until after the trade was complete.

"I found out after," Devers said via translator Daveson Perez. "My focus was basically to focus on what I was doing at the moment, playing well, and playing in the minors. It makes me feel good that they have confidence in me and they're basically sending me a message that they want me to play here for however many years they see."

It's easy to forget that Devers had already emerged as a legit prospect when the Red Sox signed Moncada to the biggest international amateur deal in history at an outlay of $63 million in 2015.

Normally, a player who progressed like Devers would be an easy No. 1 prospect. But Moncada's outrageous physical tools overshadowed Devers' quietly outstanding production, and so Devers lived in relative anonymity.

But inside the organization, the Red Sox knew what Devers represented: an impact corner bat with 40-homer potential. When he hit .311 with 20 homers in just 86 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year, the 20-year-old forced his way onto the big league roster.

The Red Sox have no regrets.

On Monday night in an otherwise forgettable loss to the Indians, Devers once again offered shocking displays of power.

One night after ripping an opposite-field homer off a 103 mph fastball against indomitable Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, Devers drilled two more long balls. His first represented an increasingly common occurrence, an opposite-field shot to left that didn't look like much off the bat, but just carried, carried, carried.

The second was a more conventional bomb to right field, pulled over everything on a curveball down and in, showing off the kind of power the barrel-chested Devers was born with.

"What we're seeing the last two days from Rafael Devers is nothing short of impressive," said manager John Farrell. "You see the velocity he hit last night. Today, another fastball in the middle he goes the other way. And the fact that he hit a breaking ball that was basically on his shoe tops, to hit it out of the ballpark, that's very unique for any hitter of any age and it's impressive."

The two homers boosted his season totals to .339 with six homers, 12 RBIs, and a 1.074 OPS. At some point, big-league pitchers will figure him out, but so far it hasn't stuck. He got a day off after a recent 3-for-19 stretch, and he has responded with three homers in four games since.

The two on Monday offered a reminder of just how right Dombrowski was to say no on Devers over the winter, even when it looked like it might cost him the best pitcher in the American League.

"It makes me happy it worked out this way, because this team has a very passionate fan base, a very good fan base, and it's one of the best organizations in baseball in my eyes," Devers said. "I'm very happy to be here."

So are the Red Sox, because we may one day look back at the Sale trade as a win as much for the player they kept as the one they received.

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