The Boston Red Sox had an exciting 2021 season, but the team fell just two wins short of reaching the World Series.
Still, the club exceeded expectations and gave fans a fun year of baseball.
Now, the organization is entering a pivotal offseason in which some tough decisions are on the horizon.
A handful of players are set to become free agents, and some others — even some who are under club control for a couple more years — are deserving of contract extensions.
Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox are going to have to get busy this winter if they want to continue to contend in 2022 and beyond.
Here are two players Boston must sign to long-term deals.
2. Kyle Schwarber
The Red Sox traded for Kyle Schwarber at the 2021 deadline, and he ended up being a perfect fit with the team.
Kyle Schwarber loves the big playoff moments. pic.twitter.com/qhErq8Qjce
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 19, 2021
Over 41 regular-season games with Boston, he batted .291 with a .957 OPS and 154 OPS+.
Including his time with the Washington Nationals, he blasted 32 home runs and 29 doubles in 2021.
The 28-year-old has become a sneaky-good power-hitter.
Since 2017, he’s averaging 37 home runs per 162 games.
Obviously, any team would love to have that type of bat in the lineup.
But if the Red Sox want Schwarber to return in 2022, they’re going to have some work to do.
The slugger’s contract has a mutual option for next season, and Schwarber will likely decline it.
That’ll make him a free agent.
However, that doesn’t mean Boston can’t ink him to a new deal.
Schwarber recently spoke about that possibility.
“This is a World Series clubhouse,” he said. “I would love to see if there’s an opportunity to come back.”
For his career, the former first-round has an All-Star selection and World Series title under his belt.
If the dominoes fall the right way, perhaps he could earn his second ring with the Red Sox.
1. Rafael Devers
Rafael Devers is a homegrown talent for the Red Sox.
Boston won the sweepstakes on Devers in 2013 when he was regarded as one of the top international prospects on the market.
Since then, the youngster has developed into a superstar for the organization.
DEVERS JOINS THE HOME RUN PARTY 🎉 pic.twitter.com/JAiAnRHueH
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 19, 2021
He broke into the big leagues in 2017 and has already accomplished a lot, including earning an All-Star selection and helping the team win a World Series title in 2018.
But here’s the thing: Devers, who just turned 25, is only under club control until 2024.
Joon Lee of ESPN recently offered some insight into the way Boston plans to approach Devers’ contract situation this offseason.
“Devers is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and the Boston front office will prioritize contract-extension talks with the 25-year-old slugger, team sources told ESPN,” Lee wrote.
It certainly sounds like the Red Sox want to lock down Devers’ services for the foreseeable future, and they would be wise to do so.
The 25-year-old is coming off of arguably the second-best season of his career so far.
He slashed .279/.352/.538 in 2021 with a 132 OPS+.
He clubbed 38 home runs, 37 doubles, and a triple.
That sort of production doesn’t come along very often, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.