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    Tuesday, May 30, 2023

    Re-signing Bogaerts, Devers the key for last-place Red Sox

    Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is embraced by Rafael Devers (11) after his grand slam during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at Fenway Park, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    Boston — The Boston Red Sox want to re-sign Xander Bogaerts – and Rafael Devers, too – Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom insisted, saying things have improved since they bowed out of the bidding and traded away their last homegrown star: Mookie Betts.

    “We are in a different situation and a better situation, I think, as far as how the organization is set up. So I don’t think we’re going to have the exact parallel to that situation again,” Bloom said Thursday, a day after the Red Sox finished last and headed into an offseason with their two best players in need of new deals.

    “We want to keep them here for a long time,” Bloom said, adding the caveat: “And we want them here in a deal that, you know, we’re going to look back on and say, ‘This is great for everybody.’”

    A four-time All-Star who has helped the Red Sox win two World Series in 10 seasons, Bogaerts can become a free agent this offseason and would command a lengthy and lucrative deal. Devers, who has received AL MVP votes in two of his five seasons in Boston, has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he can hit the market.

    Boston fans worry that the team will balk at the market price for the two young stars — the entire left side of their infield — like they did in 2020 when they sent Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, to the Dodgers rather than lose him as a free agent.

    Bloom said avoiding that with Bogaerts, who can opt out of his six-year, $120 million deal this offseason, is at the top of his to-do list.

    “That process is going to start right away, from our end,” Bloom said. “We know we haven’t found that path yet. We still want to. We’re going to work really hard at it.”

    Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said that, as a fan, he wants the team to keep Bogaerts and Devers.

    That's why he's leaving that job to Bloom and his baseball operations department.

    “I fall guilty of falling in love with our players, and particularly our homegrown players,” Kennedy said. “Of course, I’d be disappointed. You've got Xander Bogaerts and Raffy Devers — two of the most important people in the history of this organization. So I hope we can find a way to not only bring them back, or keep them here, extend them, but have a team around them that is built for success in October."

    The Red Sox weren't able to do that in 2022.

    One year after winning 92 games, earning a wild-card berth and making it all the way to the ALCS, the Red Sox dropped to 78-84 and last in the AL East. In fact, the Red Sox have finished last five times in the past 11 years — a streak of ignominy unmatched in franchise history since the Great Depression.

    Two of their fifth-place finishes were followed by division titles. (Last year they finished second in the division but beat the first-place Rays in the ALDS.)

    And mixed in among those fifth-place finishes were two World Series championships. Kennedy said the season was “incredibly disappointing” and took responsibility, on behalf of the owners, for the failure to produce. (Owners John Henry and Tom Werner were not at the news conference.)

    But Kennedy also said he was “incredibly confident” in the group assembled to dig their way out of it.

    “Finishing in last place is brutal. It’s certainly not what we set out to do,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been in this position before. And we’re excited about building this thing back up and being competitive in 2023 and beyond.”

    In other updates:

    • Bloom expressed cautious optimism that Chris Sale would be a productive part of the rotation next year: “We fully expected to be a huge part of our success next year,” Bloom said, adding: “It’s always our responsibility to make sure that we’re prepared for as many things as possible that can go wrong. So that’s going to be a part of our offseason planning this year.”

    • Manager Alex Cora said the coaching staff will be back.

    • Season ticket prices will go up 1.5% to 2%, Kennedy said. He also said the team is considering earlier start times for some weeknight games.

    • He team plans to keep its games within the NESN system instead of streaming some on an outside an outside provider like the Yankees have done with 21 games on Amazon Prime Video.

    “We’ve got to be where our fans are. And like it or not, our fans are right here,” Kennedy said, waving his phone in the air. “So we’re going to continue to explore new and different avenues to get Red Sox baseball to our fans.”

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