Red Sox: What Nolan Arenado’s extension could mean for Mookie Betts
The contract extension that the Colorado Rockies gave Nolan Arenado sets a new standard for negotiations between the Boston Red Sox and Mookie Betts.
When the San Diego Padres handed Manny Machado the largest deal in the history of free agency, the immediate reaction from Boston Red Sox fans was wondering what this meant for Mookie Betts. Now we may have a better blueprint from Nolan Arenado.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Colorado Rockies are finalizing an 8-year, $260 million contract extension with their superstar third baseman.
The $32.5 million average annual value is the most ever for a position player, topping Miguel Cabrera‘s $31 million. Machado falls a bit behind them both for average annual value but his $300 million deal runs longer. Arenado would have hit the free agent market next winter but the Rockies moved swiftly to reach an agreement in the wake of Machado’s deal.
The opt-out clause after three years is notable since it allows Arenado to test free agency again one year after Betts and Los Angeles Angeles outfielder Mike Trout potentially set a new standard for elite position players.
Betts previously stated that the Machado deal has no bearing on his future negotiations with the Red Sox. He’s two years away from free agency and has shown no indication that he’s willing to sign an early extension. When he is ready to sit down at the negotiating table, Arenado’s deal provides a better template for what a new contract for Betts could look like – assuming someone else doesn’t top it in the meantime.
The 26-year old Machado is the same age as Betts, meaning two years younger than Betts will be when he reaches free agency. If it weren’t for the extension, Arenado would also have hit the market at age 28. Betts may have a difficult time arguing that he should receive a 10-year deal similar to Machado if he waits two years.
Assuming Betts waits until 2021 to sign his mega-deal, an 8-year contract is what he should expect. He’ll presumably be able to negotiate an opt-out and full no-trade clause since Aranado was given both. Betts will also be eyeing that $32.5 average annual value as a starting point and may top it.
As great as Machado has been in his career, Betts clearly has the superior track record. Machado has made four All-star appearances and won a pair of Gold Gloves but he’s never finished higher than fifth in the MVP race and didn’t place on the ballot in either of the last two years. His 23.1 WAR over the last four seasons falls well behind the 32.9 WAR that Betts has produced over that span.
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The comparison with Arenado is a bit closer. The Rockies third baseman has racked up six Gold Gloves, four All-Star appearances, and four Silver Sluggers in his six seasons. He finished top-8 on the NL MVP ballot in each of the last four years, including a third-place finish last season. Betts has collected all the same accolades over the last three years. He’s the reigning AL MVP and finished sixth and second respectively in the previous two seasons.
Arenado’s 33.1 WAR over six seasons nearly equals the 33.8 WAR that Machado has produced in seven seasons, putting him closer to the top-tier Betts is in.
Arenado is a different type of hitter than Betts. He led the NL in home runs three times and in RBI’s twice. Betts, who has spent most of his career in the lead-off spot, can’t match that run production but makes up for it with speed. Arenado’s career .886 OPS is almost identical to Betts (.888 OPS). While Arenado has the benefit of playing in Coors Field, it’s not as if Betts is stuck in a pitcher’s paradise. Arenado has drastic home/road splits but most position players who play in hitter-friendly ballparks see a dip in production on the road, including Betts.
The new blueprint for a Betts deal if he waits for free agency should match the eight years that Arenado received with a slightly higher average annual value. That will prevent him from reaching the staggering total that Machado received but he’ll easily earn more per year, as Aranado did. An 8-year, $268 million deal is a fair projection based on what we know about the market for elite position players. Then again, a lot can change in two years.