Notes: Rafael Devers speaks up, White Sox stadium, expansion

The Red Sox aren’t spending enough, the White Sox want to spend more public money than anyone ever, and expansion is in the news, again.

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Rafael Devers watched as Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers for salary relief. He saw the Red Sox bungle negotiations with Xander Bogaerts, who then left for the Padres. He can be forgiven for deciding to speak his mind on the current direction of the Red Sox, which, with spring training now open, he did at the first opportunity. Per Jen McCaffrey at The Athletic:

When asked if he was disappointed the team didn’t spend more this winter after ownership suggested they would earlier in the offseason, Devers took a big sigh, then didn’t hold back.

“I know what we needed last year, I know what we need this year,” he said through Villoria-Benetíz. “A lot of teams need a lot of players and additions. I can’t control what they do. I just control what I do, just to go out there each day to give my 100 percent and give the best version of myself and try to help my team win.”

“But they (Red Sox’s ownership) need to make an adjustment to help us players to be in a better position to win,” he said. “Everybody in this organization wants to win and we as players want to win and I think they need to make an adjustment to help us win.”

“I’m not saying the team is not OK right now, but they need to be conscious of what our weaknesses are and what we need right now.”

There’s more to it than that — McCaffrey says Devers spoke for “nearly” 20 minutes, with half of that devoted to this subject. He’s frustrated, and understandably so. The Sox might have tried to pick up some high-quality free agents this offseason, but it’s no surprise that they’re seen as less of a worthwhile destination than some other squads, given the recent history this piece opened with. They’ve finished in last place in consecutive seasons, promised they’d go “full-throttle” this winter but obviously did not… no wonder Devers is frustrated enough to go public with it. Craig Breslow might end up being a quality executive, but he’s handcuffed to the same spending avoidance issues that his predecessor was: they mostly want someone to do a better job of winning without going all-in, not a return to what has historically worked for the franchise.

Devers, barring a trade, is in Boston for the long haul after signing a long-term extension. The point of keeping him around, supposedly, was to try as much as possible while he’s still in his best years. That has not been what’s happened: again, consecutive last-place finishes, and now an offseason so uninspiring it has the usually quiet Devers speaking in public about how he’s already spoken to ownership about his disappointment with them. It feels even more like Devers was extended because ownership was afraid of how people would react if he joined Betts and Bogaerts in becoming an ex-Red Sox player, but hey, there’s a way to change that perception, too. It’ll cost the Sox, though, which is why they just might not bother.


The headlines have said that the White Sox are looking for $1 billion in public funds for a new stadium project in Chicago, but Neil deMause’s more accurate read of the situation is that the figure is actually $1.7 billion. That’s because there’s already $700 million “previously approved property tax kickbacks” involved on the potential stadium site.

Now, there’s no guarantee that Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox owner, gets what he wants here. It’s just what he’s asking for. That being said, given the history of people giving Reinsdorf what he wants and United States’ cities and counties and states caving to basically every professional sports team that demands money that would be better served pretty much anywhere else, well. Let’s just hope someone interferes with this at some point.


Jeff Passan published a feature for ESPN on how MLB expansion is coming, with the questions simply being “where” and “when.” I remain something of an expansion skeptic, given that these cities prove useful in negotiations for new stadiums, and MLB is pretty much on a roll of getting every new, publicly funded stadium they can get built seemingly all at once right now. That being said, having the A’s and Rays’ stadium situations resolved, and knowing the threat of relocation is now a legitimate one, might be enough for MLB to be able to both get their stadiums and their expansion fees from new owners of new teams.

They just have to build a long enough list of potential expansion cities that also serve as potential relocation cities, and then they can get away with it. If they stay within the United States, the list is both longer and shorter than you’d realize, as we’ve discussed in this space before. Adding in more international teams certainly makes up for that, though: in another piece on potential destinations, Passan included Mexico City and Montreal in addition to the usual US-based suspects. Neither of those is considered a new potential entry — I’ve been writing about expansion and international destinations under Manfred practically since he first uttered the word as commissioner — but it’s still worth mentioning them again.

Part of why I’m still skeptical despite all of this making sense to do is that we’re talking about something that won’t actually happen until next decade, when Manfred has been replaced by another commissioner. It’s easy to drum up excitement and conversation about the topic in the present, and then six years down the road solemnly say, “Well, once we figure out X and Y, we can get to expansion… hopefully this plea convinces the people standing in the way of our goals to step aside. For expansion’s sake,” in the hopes that gets the public on MLB’s side. Is it just a little bit being tired of talking about expansion like it’s definitely happening every time someone in power mentions the word? The last article I linked to is one I wrote in 2017, so, I’ll let you figure out the answer for yourself.

But the fatigue is there for a reason, and it’s because this feels like the carrot on a stick that never stops dangling. Manfred already recently said they can’t think about expansion while television rights are in flux. Yeah, good point, what if they go to a city without televisions or internet? That would be embarrassing, can’t be too careful now, wouldn’t want to have the current media rights situation still a problem like, seven years from now when expansion is relevant because you decided to agree with Oakland that they have dibs on a new team after the A’s are ripped out of the city.

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