Red Sox shouldn’t break the bank for Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts is an MVP and World Series champion, but the Red Sox need to spend their money elsewhere to stay in contention long-term.
Let me start by saying I love Mookie Betts. He has everything you want in a baseball player. He plays hard, can hit out of slumps, and is a five-tool player. So why am I essentially saying the Boston Red Sox shouldn’t re-sign Mookie? Long term, I just don’t see the investment being worth it for a team that looks to contend every year and has a plethora of young talent that can sustain success.
Mookie’s talent is unquestioned. That’s why he won MVP last year. For the record, I think J.D. Martinez should have won but that’s a conversation for another time. The problem with Mookie comes down to money, his body build, and his pull hitter tendencies.
The Red Sox have in the next few years, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie coming up for free agency. They already have $31 million dedicated to David Price this season and Martinez has opt outs each if the next three years. The Red Sox total payroll, without a closer, is approximately $220 million, per Spotrac.com. Part of the reason they haven’t signed a closer.
Lets look at the money some core players are making. Bogaerts is making $12 million, JBJ is making $8 million, Sale is making $15 million, Martinez is making $23 million, and in the next 4-5 years, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers will need to get paid.
Ultimately, we don’t know what Betts will make but I don’t think its outlandish to say he signs for 10 years, $350 million at age 28. For that $35 million I believe the Red Sox could sign Chris Sale for $30 million per year, for fewer years, and still have $5 million left over. I will always pay a pitcher over a hitter.
I also see Bogaerts getting a deal for around $18 million a year which would make him the highest paid shortstop in baseball (most likely second highest once Manny Machado signs). The extra $5 million left over from not signing Mookie pays for the increase in Bogaerts’ deal. The Red Sox could also use the $5 million to pay for a raise for Martinez, which could help sign him long-term after he undoubtedly uses his opt-outs.
I could write a whole article analyzing all the different ways the Red Sox could use their money and what players are coming off the books. But this article is focused on the upcoming decision of Betts.
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I also don’t see his body holding up over time. Mookie is 5’9”, 170 lbs. Mike Trout in comparison is 6’2”, 235 lbs. A lot can change in 4 or 5 years, never mind 10 years. Is Mookie really worth the money once he loses his speed? If he loses his speed, will he cover ground in the outfield like he can now? I don’t think so. Look at Dustin Pedroia for reference. Once he stopped hitting for power his value has dropped dramatically.
This might sound like nitpicking because over 162 games, a player can still produce massive number but Mookie can’t hit the ball to the opposite field. Hitting the ball to one side of the field can make it relatively easy to pitch against you in a playoff series, which might explain his playoff numbers. Here is a breakdown on baseball-reference.com. If I’m going to pay someone over $30 million they better be able to hit the ball to all fields. Here is his spray chart courtesy of Fangraphs.
Elephant in the room time. As talented as Mookie is, the one year he didn’t have David Ortiz or Martinez, he had a down year. Check out his Fangraphs page to see how universally different his numbers were in 2017 (without Ortiz or Martinez), compared to 2016 (with Ortiz) and 2018 (with Martinez).
The Red Sox, or any baseball team for that matter, can’t win with just one All-Star player. Never mind an All-Star who hasn’t shown he can produce without a bon-a-fide slugger hitting in the 3 or 4 hole. Ultimately, I just don’t see Mookie as a player you can build a lineup around like Ortiz. In my opinion, that guy is Martinez.