The Red Sox must extend Mookie Betts

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: Mookie Betts
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: Mookie Betts /

The Boston Red Sox have a plethora of young talent. Of the young talent to choose from, right fielder Mookie Betts would be the hardest to watch walk away.

While a lot of players stress in the off-season regarding workouts, trades and contracts, Mookie Betts  keeps it calm, cool and collected. Whether he’s bowling, or just hanging out in his Tennessee home, Betts has little reason to feel the off-season stress as he is set for a big jump in salary. Under contract with the Red Sox until the 2020 season, Betts is set to enter his first year of arbitration.

For those unfamiliar with the arbitration process it occurs when players have three or more years of MLB service time, but less than six, to become eligible for salary arbitration. During the process, players and clubs negotiate the players’ salary for the upcoming season. Negotiations are based off of comparable players who have signed contracts in recent years.

Betts posted a .798 OPS last season accompanied by 24 home runs and 102 RBI’s. Mix in a second Golden Glove Award, a second consecutive All-Star appearance along with finishing top 10 in the MVP voting for the second straight season, all signs point to Betts having a nice payday when arbitration rolls around this January.

Betts made $950,000 over last season. To the average person, that amount of money is looked at as big figure. From someone with a skill set such as Betts’ that number is minuscule. Less than a million dollars is what it cost Boston for Betts to lead them to their second straight ALDS.

According to ESPN, Betts ranked 13th overall in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). His 6.44 WAR was ahead of names like Kris Bryant, Chris Sale, Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa among others.  Needless to say, the pedigrees of the previous players can speak to how talented Betts truly is.

Betts brought life to a 2015 Red Sox team, and energy to a fan base that was quickly losing their patience with the team. His second half performance, one where he posted a .859 OPS made Red Sox fans get excited for what’s ahead in the coming seasons.

Sure enough, Betts delivered on the nonverbal promise. He didn’t need to say how good he was going to be. He let his work speak for itself and boy was it loud. The 2016 season came around and Betts slashed .318/.363/.534 and finished second behind Mike rout in the MVP award. Betts followed with a 2017 in which he did not slow down. Although he didn’t have a season too similar to his 2016 campaign, Betts hit .264/.344/.459. His superb athleticism in right field only helped his season and assisted in Betts receiving a sixth place finish for MVP.

Unlike his teammates Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Junior, both of which have the possibility of being traded this winter, Betts’ agent is not Scott Boras. Ed Cerulo of The Legacy Agency acts as Betts’ representative.

As we know, Boras hates seeing his clients sign extensions before they hit the free agent market. His testament that there is more money and more opportunities when you test the open market is usually found to be true this day and age.

As I am unsure of Cerulo’s patterns with his clients regarding free agency, I do know that Boras’ “no extension” reputation exceeds Cerulo’s reputation regarding the subject as there is no more prominent attribute to Scott Boras than that. However, Betts and Cerulo find themselves this winter in the interesting position of having the ball in their court.

With Betts having the success he’s had the past two seasons, he is due for a rise in pay. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Betts is looking at just over an $8 million dollar pay raise. And even that is a bargain. $8 million dollars for one of the premier stars in the game doesn’t even scratch the surface of breaking the bank. If and when Betts hits free agency, he is easily a $20 million dollar a year player.

Is signing an extension the right move for Mookie Betts?

What is fascinating about this process is will Cerulo let Betts sign an extension. He is 25 years of age and has three full years of arbitration left. There is no signs of him slowing down. He has had little to no injury issues and is the face of the franchise. He seems to love Boston as much as it loves him, so an extension shouldn’t be ruled out.

To avoid arbitration all together, and eat up two season of potential free agency, Boston could make Betts a five-year offer worth between $80 and $85 million. That’s good enough for a $16 or $17 million dollar AAV for a star player. That figure gets closer to what Betts will demand if he hits free agency in 2020, but still not the annual figure he is expected to receive. A five-year agreement puts Betts at his age 30 season, young enough for another, bigger payday.

The truth of the matter is nobody looks forward to arbitration. No player wakes up in the morning trying to hide their excitement for going to court to argue salary demands with their employer. Sometimes as we’ve seen in the past, arbitration can get messy. Just last season Yankee’s star reliever Dellin Betances was public about his displeasure with New York’s arbitrary team after losing his case.

A deal like this works in favor of both parties. The Red Sox retain their superstar outfielder for two years more than expected, and Betts gets to cash in with Boston, avoid arbitration completely and then potentially test free agency for another big payday for his age 30 season. Boston should have no problem doing a deal similar to this it helps them both now and in the long run. The only question left is will  Betts be willing to sign an extension?

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