ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Ortiz had a message for Red Sox ownership on Thursday: Keep Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
“We need to lock them in. We need to lock them in,” Big Papi said to reporters during a Zoom session ahead of his Hall of Fame induction on July 24.
In response to an innocuous question about lineup construction, Ortiz seized the opportunity to praise Bogaerts and Devers and their importance to the organization.
“They know how it is to play in Boston. Trust me, playing in Boston is not for every type of player,” he said. “I played there for so long and it’s a distraction for a lot of players. They don’t know how to handle it. I played with a lot of superstars, they did great somewhere else and when they got to Boston they struggled because they couldn’t put up with what’s going on up there.
“These two guys, they grew up there. You would know what to expect from them. You know what they’re going to give you. That’s why sometimes I don’t understand how come organizations sometimes walk away from that. They prefer to explore some other options.
“I would go with what I know. I’d keep it simple.”
As he prepared for Thursday night’s game against Tampa Bay, Bogaerts said he appreciated the comments.
“That’s him. He’s always there for us,” Bogaerts said.
Ortiz, who has three World Series rings, understands better than anybody the value of players who can handle Boston. In Bogaerts and Devers, you have two All-Stars who represent the organization at a high level on and off the field.
But for how long? Bogaerts has the right to opt out his contract and become a free agent after the season and Devers can follow a year later.
Extension talks with Bogaerts ended in spring training following an unsatisfactory offer from the Sox. Little progress was made with Devers, who was third in the majors with a .969 OPS through Wednesday.
“When I see Devers it’s like I never left. He’s fearless, this kid, at such an early age. He looks invincible out there,” Ortiz said.
“Devers might be one of the top three pure hitters in the game right now. Not might, I’m 100 percent sure because I watch that kid hitting and playing the game so many times that when I watch him I’m expecting something.
“I know the Red Sox make sense about the decisions that they have to make with him. But we’ve got to keep Devers around, man. Devers is the face of the organization as of right now and nobody can argue that.”
I’d argue he shares that status with Bogaerts, their reliable shortstop and team leader.
On Wednesday, when the Sox played poorly in a 4-1 loss against the Rays, it was Bogaerts who stuck around the clubhouse to take questions and represent the team.
Bogaerts has been with the Red Sox since signing as a teenager in 2009 and for many in the organization is the embodiment of its values.
As Ortiz approaches baseball’s mountaintop in Cooperstown, it’s fair to wonder if the Sox will have another superstar retire while a member of the team or be prodded out while still in his prime.
Bogaerts was a rookie when he helped Ortiz win his last championship in 2013.
Now the shortstop is one of only nine players still with the Sox from their 2018 championship team. That includes Jackie Bradley Jr., who left as a free agent after the 2020 season then was reacquired by trade.
Ortiz is a special assistant with the Sox but has only sporadic involvement with the team.
“Obviously David knows what it takes and he knows talent,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We love Raffy. Hopefully Raffy can have a long career here with the Red Sox.”
Ortiz, who was wearing a No. 34 Patriots jersey, said the last few weeks have been stressful as he works to accommodate all the family and friends from both the Dominican Republic and United States who want to be in Cooperstown for the ceremony.
“It’s a lot of work but I’m excited to be part of it,” he said. “I know next year I’m not going to be driving myself crazy like I am right now.”