Red Sox, Ceddanne Rafaela Agree To Extension

Red Sox, Ceddanne Rafaela Agree To Extension

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The Red Sox have agreed to an extension with outfielder/second baseman Ceddanne Rafaela, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. It’s an eight-year, $50MM pact, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, as relayed by Ian Browne of MLB.com. Rafaela is the second young, core player the team has locked up in the past few weeks; Boston also signed righty Brayan Bello to a six-year, $55MM deal in late March.

Rafaela, 23, has ranked among the game’s top 100 prospects entering each of the past two seasons. He made his big league debut in 2023 won the center field job in Boston with a strong spring showing in 2024. Through his first 124 big league plate appearances, Rafaela is a .239/.282/.389 hitter, though his minor league track record features far more promising numbers. Rafaela split the majority of the 2023 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A, where he logged a combined .302/.349/.520 slash with 20 homers, 31 doubles, three triples and 36 stolen bases (in 49 tries).

Listed at just 5’9″ and 152 pounds, Rafaela is small in stature but certainly not short on talent. Scouting reports laud him as a potential plus center fielder; Baseball America and MLB.com both call him a Gold Glove-caliber defender there, and The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote that Rafaela “has a chance to be the most valuable outfield defender in baseball” when ranking him 32nd among all MLB prospects this spring. Rafaela couples that defensive upside with plus speed and enough power to project for double-digit home runs in the big leagues, even if he’s more of a gap hitter than a true slugger.

While Rafaela struck out as a generally manageable 21% clip in the upper minors last season, he doesn’t have a particularly patient approach at the plate. He walked in just 5.4% of his plate appearances last season — his second straight minor league campaign with a walk rate around 5%. He’s drawn a free pass in just 4.8% of his big league plate appearances to date. Barring an evolution in his approach at the dish, Rafaela could post middling on-base percentages in the majors, but his defensive prowess, speed and power contributions should offset any potential OBP deficiency.

As shown in MLBTR’s Contract Tracker, the pre-arbitration extensions for Rafalea and Bello mark a notable change in philosophy from a Red Sox club that has eschewed long-term deals for players who are relatively unproven in the big leagues. From 2012 through 2021, the Red Sox didn’t give out a single pre-arb extension. Their 2022 deal with righty Garrett Whitlock (four years, $18.75MM with two club options) was their first extension for a player prior to arbitration eligibility since Clay Buchholz way back in 2011.

The Sox haven’t shied away from extensions entirely, but long-term deals for Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello were far more expensive deals that came after those players had solidified themselves as big leaguers worth annual values of $20MM or more. Even the original Bogaerts deal, which was considered wildly club-friendly, was valued at six years and $120MM.

Perhaps the eventual loss of Bogaerts, coupled with high-profile departures of Mookie Betts, Jon Lester and others over the years, pushed Sox ownership to become more aggressive on early-career extensions. Maybe they’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with pricey free-agent deals that haven’t gone to plan (e.g. Trevor Story, David Price, Lucas Giolito). Or perhaps they simply looked at the rising price for young talent around the league and opted to become more proactive. Whatever the reason, they’re beginning to lock up some promising and affordable contributors to join Devers in comprising the long-term core.

Rafaela is just one of several extension candidates on the Red Sox, and with two deals now hammered out, it seems increasingly plausible others could yet follow. Most notably, first baseman Triston Casas and righty Tanner Houck have both spoken about their openness to extensions. Other pre-arb players who could feasibly be considered for long-term deals include left fielder Jarren Duran and righty Kutter Crawford.

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