Red Sox star Mookie Betts sets record for arbitration-eligible players

Mookie Betts settled on a record-setting agreement with the Boston Red Sox to avoid arbitration in his final year of eligibility.

Friday afternoon brought a flurry of contract-related news as the deadline for teams to exchange arbitration figures with eligible players passed at noon. The Boston Red Sox agreed to one-year deals to avoid arbitration with several players but none were more pivotal than Mookie Betts.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Betts will receive $27 million from the Red Sox for the 2020 season.

This figure tops the previous record for arbitration-eligible players which was held by Nolan Arenado. He earned $26 million in arbitration last year before agreeing to an eight-year extension with the Colorado Rockies.

As has been well documented all offseason, Betts isn’t interested in following in Arenado’s footsteps by locking himself into a long-term extension. He’s adamant about testing free agency where he expects he’ll be able to maximize his value.

Betting on himself has turned out well for Mookie so far. He set a record for second-year arbitration players with his $20 million salary last year and now he’s raised the bar again.

The record-setting salary actually comes in at slightly lower than the $27.7 million that MLB Trade Rumors predicted for Betts. Other sources were expecting Betts to earn $28 million or more. The savings on those projections compared to what he actually received may not seem like much but every little bit counts for a Red Sox organization pinching pennies.

It’s an encouraging sign that the Red Sox were able to avoid arbitration with their superstar. The sides were so far apart in 2018 that they ended up having the decision made for them at a hearing, with the panel ruling in favor of Betts and the $10.5 million he demanded. The sides came to a more amicable agreement on their own last year and have done so again this time – no surprise considering Betts set records on both occasions.

The agreement could buy the Red Sox some goodwill when Betts hits the open market next winter. Arbitration hearings can get messy, with teams essentially forced to rip their own player apart by trying to prove why they are worth less than they believe themselves to be. Most players understand it’s just business and there are no hard feelings but sometimes it can rub players the wrong way. That scenario clearly wouldn’t help Boston’s negotiating stance when the time comes to discuss a long-term deal. The Red Sox were wise not to risk that potential disaster.

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The Red Sox now have a more accurate read on their payroll with arbitration figures finalized. There are still some players whose salaries have yet to be determined but Betts was the big one. With that item crossed off their list, Boston’s brass can get back to focusing on ways to slash that payroll.

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