Red Sox: The Jose Altuve standard should apply to Mookie Betts
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox need Mookie Betts and that means a long-term deal. Let the Jose Altuve contract be the framework for such a deal.
The Boston Red Sox will soon have a perfect storm of young players reaching free agency. Before that tumultuous event is the various levels of arbitration that are now part of the system. I am sure the late Steven Hawking would be mesmerized by the complexities of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and subsequent fiscal machinations.
One such issue is the arbitration hearing itself when the dueling parties cannot agree on appropriate fiscal compensation. This is generally ignored by baseball fans unless the player is viewed as a strategic piece in the long-term preservation of overall success. For the Red Sox, it was Mookie Betts.
The Red Sox and Betts, or one should say Betts’ advisors, presented their arguments – no doubt bolstered by an information tsunami – on why and how Betts should be rewarded. The long story made short is Betts became victorious and will receive $10.85 million for 2018. This is a harbinger of the future, but that harbinger comes with a caveat. Can Betts continue to perform as a top three player in the American League?
Betts is the traditional five-tool player who excels at all levels of the game. That is not even debatable unless someone can dig up some nonsense statistic that he may have a .273 BABIP in games played on Tuesday with the temperature below 70 degrees. Simply put it is Betts, Mike Trout and Jose Altuve in my Pantheon of talent in the American League.
Betts needs to be re-signed to an extension.
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The Altuve contract set some reasonable parameters. Altuve’s current deal remains in place until the new contract kicks in and what a kick that will be for the diminutive MVP! Altuve was a noted bargain – a Chris Sale bargain of position players – the Astros knew this. Altuve knew this. A rice farmer in Japan knew this. So, the Astros did the right thing and starting in 2020 Altuve will get his 5-year, $151 million deal. About $30 million per season if my calculator is accurate.
The Red Sox will have to pay more since Betts is in arbitration and will be for the remainder of this decade. That certainly exceeds the paltry $6 million and $6.5 million that Altuve will get for the next two seasons. That will cost, and cost dearly based on the recent bounty Betts got via arbitration.
Just what would it take?
This is where you get into all the nuances of projecting value and performances. There is nothing one can predict about performances. With Betts, you can assume he will continue to ring up numbers that will say: “MVP contender!” But Betts can be injured or fall off a statistical cliff. Betts could be a risk taker and play the process out and see what happens. With the noted free agent class after 2018, Betts may just wish to wait and see what the market holds.
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What I do know as does any Red Sox or baseball fan is that the Red Sox have under their control an exquisite talent who is now the face of the franchise. Betts is off the charts (my assumption) in any Q Scale the Red Sox have run or those of advertisers wishing for a Betts connection. Betts is a very rare commodity whose likeability matches his incredible talent. This is a deal that should be a team priority.