The beauty of baseball is that it doesn’t have a clock, or does it? There is a clock on service time and the Boston Red Sox are faced with it on Mookie Betts.
Face it since it is rolling around in mental depths attached to the future. Soon it will surface when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper eventually sign their anticipated enormous and extravagant contracts. Just how much? The bar will be set. The price tag for a superstar. Then there is that level that goes beyond superstar and that is Mookie Betts.
The clock is ticking. The optimum year is 2020 and when that season is extinguished Betts joins the list of free agents. Meanwhile, Betts will be compensated according to his talent and that is all determined by the arbitration process. In round one last offseason the Red Sox lost and Betts won to the tune of $10.5 MM. That will seem like baseball chump change in this next arbitration scuffle.
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Let’s start with assumptions and that is Betts’ trajectory will remain the same or even go up slightly. A perpetual All-Star, Gold Glove Award recipient, potential batting champion, and the new five-tool player. Better than Mike Trout? Maybe or maybe not? Peas in a statistical pod.
Reportedly Betts has already rejected one offer from the Red Sox for five years and $100 MM in 2017. Betts is quiet on the contract issue and I expect him to remain so. No threats. No public displays of ire. No outspoken animosity towards management. Betts plays his cards close – very close – to the vest.
Is Betts looking to play elsewhere? The great reward of free agency is both fiscal and mobility. Players of immense talent have limited choices for teams, but there are enough with deep – very deep – pockets so a Betts or a Machado or a Harper can pick a cozy spot to become the one percent of the one percent.
Betts is baseball gold and that means not just talent, but the face of baseball. Betts is personality personified. A potential marketing gemstone. Betts has magic – he bowls 300 games, flies a plane, solves a Rubik Cube in the time it takes him to run the bases, and Betts – do not ignore this, folks – is black. The perfect player for baseball PR. Unassuming, talented, effervescent, on and on.
Is Betts signable? Of course, he is, but is he signable for the Red Sox? Of course, he is. But contracts come with risks – big risks. Long-term contracts have even bigger risks. How long a contract for Betts? A decade? That is a huge chunk of time for any athlete and talent erodes or sometimes just vanishes. The baseball landscape is littered with the remains of bad contracts or players being compensated for mediocre returns. Betts is worth the risk.
Betts will wait. I am convinced this is a maximize situation and Betts is taking his own personal risk. The option is seeing the market this offseason and determining the going rate. If it is ten years and $300 MM then lay it out. Here it is, Mookie, all wrapped up. Take it! If Mookie walks away you have a clue that even Inspector Clouseau could solve. Betts will want out.
That happens look for a deal by Boston. Betts will be shipped out and Boston will sign three players for a $100 MM instead of one for $300 MM. The message will be clear and Boston would have to respond. Red Sox fans run on 90% emotion and 10% reality. An offer to Betts that would make him a top dog on the fiscal charts gets rejected then Betts would have to go. That is a reality thing.