The Boston Red Sox are taking time to decide how much to extend both contracts of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. If they wait too long, however, issues will come.
Alex Speier of The Boston Globe discusses the possibility that, while the Red Sox may be waiting to see how their value changes before arbitration eligibility in 2018, the two young stars may be waiting for “the next Collective Bargaining Agreement [to be] in place for the 2017 season and beyond [which] could prove a very lucrative proposition.” Speier cites Matt Collins of Over the Monster with the idea for that premise.
Speier agrees with Collins’ assessment and adds, “the appeal for a young player of signing a long-term deal on team-friendly terms – and delaying their free agency beyond their aging curve sweet spot – might be lower than ever.”
That makes complete sense in terms of the players involved. Both Betts and Bogaerts have only scratched the surface of their potential, and they should not sign long-term deals based on what they have already achieved if everyone under the sun believes that the best is yet to come, not to mention the new money coming in the new agreement.
For the Red Sox, however, as much as it shouldn’t cost them too much on paper, they would be foolish not to at least show their commitment to both players in some fashion, and soon.
Desperation may not be needed, as Speier suggests, “There have been three deals (with Andrew McCutchen, Matt Carpenter, and Jason Kipnis) that included two prospective free agent years for non-Mike Trout players with two-plus years of service time. The average annual value of those? About $8.67 million […] the benefit of extending a player like Bogaerts now as opposed to next year might be something like a couple of million dollars a year – a tangible benefit but not a roster reshaping one.”
Yet, the Red Sox cannot think of fiances alone, at least not in the short term.
In terms of depth, Bogaerts is essential for the future. At present, the Red Sox roster have three possible shortstops: Bogaerts, who hit .320/.355/.421 with seven home runs and 81 RBIs in 156 games; Brock Holt, who hit .280/.349/.379 with two homers and 45 RBIs in 129 games; and Deven Marrero, who hit .226/.268/.283 with a homer and three RBIs in 25 games. The next highest-valued shortstop in Boston’s organization is their 17th-ranked prospect Mauricio Dubon, who was drafted in 2013 and was still spending time in Class-A ball in 2015. So, between an All-Star utility player who is likely going to be needed elsewhere on the field, an unproven bat who can play defense, and potential talent who can’t crack Double-A in three years, Bogaerts’ near-miss at making the All-Star roster in 2015 sets him far above the rest.
Even defensively, Bogaerts has the edge. His .984 fielding percentage was above the league total (.972) at the shortstop position. His range factor (4.40) was also well above the league average (4.21). At 23 years of age, Bogaerts looks to have many years ahead of him to justify being an elite player, let alone the only solid full-time shortstop for the Red Sox.
The same goes for Betts in the outfield. With the plethora of outfielders that Boston has in the organization, both in the majors and the minor leagues, one would think that Betts could be easily replaceable, if he decided to raise his market value too high for the team’s liking. However, Betts means more to the Red Sox than at first glance.
Betts’ slash-line of .291/.341/.479, much like Bogaerts’, was a much needed bonus last season. In a year that expected to see Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, two big bats signed in the offseason, to carry the offense with David Ortiz, it was the Beantown Babes like Betts and Bogaerts doing the heavy lifting with Big Papi Ortiz. Betts spent most of the year at the lead-off position, driving in 18 home runs and 77 RBIs of his own while crossing the plate 92 times. Out of the 748 runs that the team scored, ranking them fourth overall, almost 10% were cashed in by Betts’ righty bat and almost another 10% were cashed in with his legs. In 117 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Betts cashed in 54 RBIs. The only two players ahead of him in that category were Ortiz (58 RBIs) and Bogaerts (72 RBIs).
Yes, Andrew Benintendi‘s shooting up the minor ranks faster than a speeding bullet, looking more powerful than a locomotive with each plate appearance. Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Chris Young, and a host of other outfielders can also all play incredible defense and have potential bats for the long haul. However, Betts has already proven himself to be an elite player, and he hasn’t even completely grown into the player he could be before his 24th birthday.
With this much talent at such an early age for Betts and Bogaerts, the market value could go up exponentially for the pair of them, if Boston waits too long to sign them to extensions. Between the collective agreement coming down the pipeline and their future accomplishments budding, Betts and Bogaerts may very well spring past all records of contract extensions, pricing them too high for the Red Sox to pay for, considering that the team has the albatross of contracts for Ramirez, Sandoval, and Rick Porcello hanging around its neck. Not to mention that they just signed ace pitcher David Price to a king’s ransom and a ton of extra money to Cuba for Yoan Moncada‘s services, a talented infielder who may be wanting a hefty sum of his own in years to come.
If the Red Sox don’t at least make Betts and Bogaerts feel appreciated in some fashion, deals before arbitration in 2018 could go very badly for the team and very well for the two young men in question. The idea may have been to spend money on big-name players and patching the holes with young, decent talent; however, the young talent is now carrying this team, dragging the expensive, disappointing veterans with them. If Betts and Bogaerts get big money themselves, this ship is going to sink if they can’t unload at least some money somewhere.