On Monday, Rafael Devers celebrated his 26th birthday in the Dominican Republic. He wasn’t alone while doing so.
According to a major league source, Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, who signed Devers as a 16-year-old in 2013, visited the third baseman on what was characterized as a regular offseason check-in.
Romero frequently travels to the Dominican for scouting and player development trips, and visits players while doing so. While offseason visits with Devers are nothing new for Romero, the timing of this one is intriguing given that the two-time All-Star is just one year from free agency, with questions growing about his future in Boston.
Devers and the Sox talked during spring training about a long-term deal, but an immense gap in what the team was proposing — a deal based on the eight-year, $168 million one signed by Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson — and what Devers sought led to the talks being tabled.
“I know my value. I don’t want to be compared with anyone else, regardless of what the position is,” Devers said at the All-Star break. “I’m me, and that’s who I want to be compared to.”
Dominican reporter Yancen Pujols reported Monday that the Sox are engaged in “ongoing talks” to retain Devers on a deal of at least seven years. According to two sources familiar with the matter, that characterization was overstated, and they downplayed the suggestion that negotiations were heating up.
Pujols, however, reported Tuesday that the Sox had made a “substantially improved offer” to Devers from the one they offered in spring training. Héctor Gómez of Hoy reported that the Sox are expected to make an offer that is “nearly double” what they presented in spring training.
The Globe has not been able to confirm those reports. However, the Sox have made no secret of their interest in a long-term deal to keep Devers in Boston. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, in an end-of-season press conference, said they viewed Devers as a building block.
“He’s a guy that we want to build around,” said Bloom. “He’s hugely important to what we’re doing. We hope he’s here not just next year but in the years to come.
“I think we’re in a position now that we expect and fully intend to go out and put a really good team on the field and win next year. That’s really important. And I don’t see how it would make life easier for ourselves by him not being a part of that, to say nothing of the years to come.”
Even if the Sox have not made a new contract offer to Devers or engaged in formal talks with him since the end of the season, it’s entirely possible that they have reiterated to him their interest in retaining him and ballparked what a proposal might entail.
The desire to retain Devers is no surprise given his emergence as one of the most formidable young hitters in the game.
Despite a hamstring injury that resulted in an injured list stint in late July and hindered his production down the stretch, Devers had a strong 2022 campaign, hitting .296/.358/.521 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs while showing considerable defensive improvement at third base.
His 139 homers through his age-25 season are second-most ever by a Red Sox player and tied for 32nd in big league history. Both David Ortiz and Adrián Beltré have described Devers as being well ahead of where they were at a similar age.
Beltré, a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame, said this summer, “He’s better than me. If he stays healthy, no doubt — no doubt he’s going to be better.”
Back in business
A top Red Sox pitching prospect who missed most of the last four months of the season has resumed throwing. Lefthander Brandon Walter, who did not pitch after June 7 because of a bulging cervical disk, texted that he started throwing a few weeks ago, with plans to get back on a mound in December on the way to a healthy spring training.
“I’m doing great now,” Walter texted. “It definitely feels good to throw.”
Walter, who turned 26 in September, went 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a ridiculous 68-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Double A Portland, earning a late May promotion to Worcester. He allowed seven runs in 7⅔ innings over two starts in Triple A before being shut down.
If healthy, Walter’s arsenal (sinker, slider, and changeup from a nasty low three-quarters arm slot) ranks among the best in the system.
A number of Red Sox front office members have been promoted, according to industry sources. Paul Toboni, the amateur scouting director since late 2019, has been elevated to a vice president role in charge of amateur scouting and player development. With Toboni’s elevation, assistant director of amateur scouting Devin Pearson has been promoted to director of amateur scouting … The Red Sox are working to fill positions in their minor league system after parting ways with five staff members. They did not renew the contracts of senior hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce (formerly the Rangers and Cubs hitting coach), Double A pitching coach Lance Carter, High A hitting coach Nate Spears, and Single A pitching coach Nick Green, while Single A Salem manager Luke Montz declined an invitation to return. Field coordinator Ryan Jackson also has moved into a special assistant role in player development. One possibility to replace Iapoce is Jason Ochart, who spent the last four seasons as the Phillies hitting coordinator. Ochart announced in September that his time with the Phillies had come to a conclusion.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.