Satisfaction, Relief And Redemption Highlight Press Conferences For Rafael Devers, Carlos Correa And Brandon Belt

January 12, 2023


On Wednesday three press conferences were held involving AL teams and each featured a different theme.

In Boston, there was the feel of satisfaction for being able to retain Rafael Devers on a long-term deal after a difficult series of events in recent seasons since their dominant World Series title in 2018.

In Minnesota, there was a sense of relief for the team and player when Carlos Correa put on his jersey to start his third contract but first one that he actually signed. It ended a protracted saga that started in San Francisco and then moved to the National League side of New York for a few weeks before concerns about his ankle sent him to a podium in downtown Minneapolis.

In Toronto, the press conference setting was not as dramatic since it was a virtual and it was to introduce Brandon Belt as a depth piece for a formidable roster that finished six games behind the Yankees after putting a scare into them during an eventful August series. And the theme of his introduction to Toronto was medical as he was signed after undergoing knee surgery in September.

The most significant press conference was for Correa, who was gearing up for the same format in San Francisco last month only to learn at the last minute it was not going to occur. After the Giants could not lure Aaron Judge from the Yankees like some people thought they would, they pivoted to Correa, signing him on Dec. 13 to a $350 million, 13-year contract.

Then a week later, citing concerns with a past ankle surgery the deal and lavish press conference was postponed at the last minute. All of this occurred as billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen was relaxing on an apparent working vacation in Hawaii as he took time out from his trip to “agree” on a $315 million, 12-year deal in news that emerged while most people were sleeping in New York.

It was such a big thing Cohen actually confirmed the pending deal, citing Correa as something his 101-win ballclub needed to get. Then came concerns about the ankle and the Mets were reluctant to finalize things as various protections were negotiated, which seemed amusing to Correa.

“Through that whole month, when people were speculating, I was running sprints. I was working out. I was taking ground balls. I was hitting," Correa told reporters in Minnesota. "So, it was more funny to me, that there was all this speculation and I'm feeling great."

As the Mets tried to protect themselves in a Correa contract, the Twins became involved and ultimately agreed to a contract that seemingly is more their speed at six years for $200 million that could get him $270 million over 10 years if there is not a health issue.

And shortly before Correa was introduced to Minnesota for the second time in 10 months, the Mets used brevity to confirm they were out on the shortstop as they said: “We were unable to reach an agreement. We wish Carlos all the best.”

Meanwhile in Boston, the Red Sox were holding the press conference they needed to be involved in to officially announce they signed Devers to a long-term extension.

For a rare change of pace in recent years, the Red Sox held a press conference not to explain losing a homegrown star for whatever reasons but to celebrate keeping a star they developed.

During an offseason with not so great optics, including the recent development of Trevor Story’s injured elbow, the Red Sox could embrace the positivity of retaining Devers who seemingly never wanted to leave Boston and was merely waiting for his employer to make a legitimate effort to make it happen.

In Devers, the Red Sox have their franchise player for the next 11 years at $331 million, a figure that includes his $17.5 million for the 2023 season, which is $1.5 million less than what Judge was paid last season when he settled with the Yankees ahead of a June arbitration hearing.

“It’s a great day for us, a great day for the organization … But it’s a great day for Raffy,” manager Alex Cora said to reporters at Fenway Park. “He’s been in every camp, he’s been in every instructional league. He took every step throughout the organization and now he’s the main guy here.”

Keeping Devers as their main guy at age 26, seemingly puts Boston in a favorable position since he will in his mid-30s when the deal runs it course. The deal also includes some deferred money as the AP reported Wednesday there is $75 million in deferred salary along with a $20 million signing bonus paid in increments of $5 million.

Whatever the method for distributing the funds for Devers, Wednesday was a good day for the Red Sox.

“He’s not just a star. He’s our star,” Chaim Bloom said to reporters. “It’s a wonderful thing to retain a homegrown player.”

The Blue Jays made several large moves in 2021, signing Kevin Gausman and acquiring Jose Berrios at the July trade deadline. This year, their major moves included trading Teoscar Hernandez to Seattle for Erik Swanson, who is regarded as bullpen depth and signing Chris Bassitt away from the Mets on a three-year deal.

On Wednesday, they introduced Belt, a longtime San Francisco stalwart who owns two World Series rings. The Blue Jays landed Belt on a one-year, $9.3 million deal, a price that was relatively low by current standards because it is kind of a “prove-it deal”.

Belt is coming off a right knee injury that required season-ending surgery and limited him to 78 games and saw his season end Aug. 20. A career .261 hitter, Belt’s average dropped to .213 last season and the Blue Jays are hoping that figure is due to his knee injuries, a topic Belt virtually addressed with Toronto reporters Wednesday.

“I feel great,” Belt told reporters. “There’s going to be no excuses for me.”

If all goes according to plan, Correa and Devers are massive successes for Boston and Minnesota and Belt returns to some semblance of his 2021 self while serving as the designated hitter and spelling star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base.

“I'll flat out say it right now – I feel like I'm going to be who I was in 2020 and 2021,” Belt told reporters. “And if it doesn't end up like that, it’s not because of something physical. It’s because I didn't have the year I should have had. “



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