The Boston Red Sox have made several attempts to sign superstar outfielder Mookie Betts to an extension but his demands remain unrealistic.
Nothing would take away the sting of a tumultuous offseason more than locking Mookie Betts up with a long-term extension. The Boston Red Sox have taken plenty of heat for failing to pay up for the former MVP but it’s not as if they haven’t tried. Oh, they’ve tried about as much as they feasibly could. The reason a deal hasn’t been agreed to is because the player’s demands remain unrealistic.
On WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria show, Lou Merloni revealed some juicy details regarding Boston’s contract negotiations with Betts. According to his sources, the Red Sox have made multiple offers to Betts in recent years, all of which have been rebuffed.
The one we’ve heard before is the 8-year, $200 million deal that was on the table last year. That may appear to some as a low-ball offer but keep in mind that this was before Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signed $300+ million deals last winter. At the time, Boston’s offer would have made Betts one of the richest players in baseball. That certainly doesn’t make them cheap.
In the wake of last offseason’s mega-deals, Boston increased their offer to somewhere in the range of 10-years, $300 million. That’s the same as Machado received from the San Diego Padres. It’s in the same ballpark as Harper, who took a lower average annual value spread over a longer duration.
Betts is obviously better than either of those two players. The 32.9 WAR he accumulated from 2015-2018 tops Machado’s 23.2 WAR and Harper’s 17.4 WAR over the same time frame by a wide margin.
However, Betts was two years away from free agency when these negotiations took place. He didn’t have nearly as much leverage on his side as the two stars who cashed in on the open market. That’s exactly why he’s content to wait until he can test free agency but the Red Sox were certainly willing to extend a fair offer.
Betts apparently didn’t agree, countering with a whopping 12-year, $420 million deal that would put him just shy of the record-breaking $426.5 million extension that Mike Trout signed with the Los Angeles Angels last offseason.
That puts the Red Sox more than $100 million apart from their superstar. No wonder they haven’t made any progress on an extension! The blame doesn’t fall on ownership or the front office though. They would have been insane to cave in to those demands.
Betts is great, a five-tool talent and one of the game’s best position players. He’s not Mike Trout. Sorry, nobody is. Trout is the best player of this generation and it’s not close.
Trout has averaged 9.0 WAR over the last eight seasons, a figure Betts has only topped twice in five full seasons. Mookie has an MVP trophy on his mantle. Trout won the award three times and was the runner-up on three other occasions.
Betts is dreaming if he thinks any team is offering him Trout money. He probably knows it to. It’s doubtful that he actually expected the Red Sox to increase their offer that dramatically. Betts has been adamant about testing free agency because he believes it’s his best chance to maximize his earnings. He essentially was daring the Red Sox to change his mind with an outrageous offer.
Boston’s brass didn’t bite. Now they are in a position where they must consider trading one of the best hitters in baseball or risk losing him to free agency in a year.
Regardless of if he gets traded or not, Betts will almost certainly be a free agent after this upcoming season. Teams will back up the Brinks trunk for him. He’s going to get paid. A lot. But it won’t be $400 million.
Trout’s record total includes the two years and $66.5 million that was remaining on his previous contract. The extension portion is for 10-years, $360 million. If he hadn’t inked an extension two years early, Trout would have joined Betts in the free agent class of 2021. In what world is Betts getting more than $360 million if that’s what Trout was deemed to be worth?
Sure, Trout might have made more money if he waited for free agency but we can’t say the Angels were given a hometown discount when they paid him nearly $100 MILLION MORE THAN ANYONE IN MLB HISTORY!
Trout belongs in his own stratosphere so his contract shouldn’t be used to project what Betts will earn. When Betts hits free agency, his offers will be based on what Machado (10-year, $300M) and Harper (13-year, $330M) were paid last year. What Anthony Rendon (7-year, $245M) earned as the top position player on the market this year or Nolan Arenado‘s extension (8-years, $260M) with the Colorado Rockies.
Betts is more valuable than any of those players but he’ll be 28 when he hits the market. That’s two years older than Machado/Harper, one year younger than Rendon and the same age Arenado was when he signed. There’s little reason to assume Betts will get more than eight years. His average annual value will be higher but he doesn’t deserve to top Trout. An average of $35 million over eight years works out to $280 million. That seems reasonable.
That doesn’t mean that Betts was foolish to turn down Boston’s offer. He was paid $20 million last year and will earn $27 million this season. If he makes $280 million on his next deal, that’s $327 million over a ten year period. More than what the Red Sox were offering, although not by much.
It’s well short of the $420 million he reportedly asked for but that was spread over 12 years and would have started with his age 26 season, wiping out his final two arbitration seasons. Mookie knows he can’t ask for 12 years when he’s 28 years old. Don’t misinterpret this report by thinking it will take $400+ million to sign Betts as a free agent next year. It’s not happening!
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Betts can ask for the moon now because it’s the only way to potentially talk him into an early extension. What he actually gets on the open market will be much closer to what Boston offered than the staggering figure he’s demanding. In the end, he’s still going to snatch every last dollar he can grab, which was is plan all along.