Don’t blame Boston Red Sox for trading away Mookie Betts
The Boston Red Sox are seemingly on the verge of possibly completing one of the most unpopular trades of all time. Should they face serious consequences?
At some point within the next several hours or coming days, Mookie Betts will probably be putting on the uniform of a baseball team not named the Boston Red Sox.
It’s a move that will trigger strong reactions from across a broad spectrum of Boston fans as they see one of the greatest players in the history of their franchise no longer leading off in the lineup, or occupying right field at Fenway Park.
The more academically in tune fans understand that the current Red Sox roster is a mess, and that starting pitching is currently a grave concern. Clearly, if those needs cant be addressed, how is a massive contract for Betts going to help fill those holes in the near or long term?
On the opposite end of the fan base are the people who want to sign Betts at all costs. No matter what kind of facts you present to those people to illustrate the extreme negative consequences of making such a move, as well as trends, precedence, or common sense, they won’t see it any other way.
The Red Sox have made multiple reasonable efforts to sign Betts over the past few winters. Lou Merloni revealed on the afternoon OMF show on WEEI that the Boston front office executives have been as much as $100 million off from where the 2018 AL MVP and his representatives figure his value to be.
Following the 2017 season with three years left to go on his original contract, the Red Sox offered him $200 million over eight years, which is an average annual value of $25 million. Considering their right fielder is essentially a generational talent, this certainly would have been classified as a “team-friendly offer.” But was it a low ball offer? Absolutely not.
After winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2018 season, the front office took one final stab at trying to sign Betts to a 10-year, $300 million deal. At the time, that contract would have been tied for the fourth largest in MLB history. But it wasn’t enough. Mookie’s camp countered with a staggering $420 million demand.
The timing of when that last offer was made is not clear. On March 19, 2019, Mike Trout agreed to an extension with the Anaheim Angels that brought his overall value of his contract to record shattering $430 million. So was Betts seeking a record breaking offer himself before Trout got his deal? Or was he simply using the Anaheim star’s deal as a bench mark?
In the luxury tax era, only once in the history of the World Series did it get won by a team who had a position player on it’s roster making more than $200 million. This was the New York Yankees in 2009 with Alex Rodriguez. No other team has done it since. In fact, contracts exceeding that threshold have served as a road block to a championship.
The Red Sox completed their blockbuster 2012 trade by sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers, which relieved the organization of roughly $57 million in annual salary.
Ben Cherington then replaced those players by spending a combined annual total of $31 million for Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. Not the sexiest of names, but far better value. When those signings were announced, did anyone envision a duck boat parade the following October?
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In February of 2019, Washington Nationals fans had to watch the face of their franchise, Bryce Harper, sign a massive contract with with their division rival. When the Nats turned their focus to starting pitching with with signings of Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, their fan base had to endure the unimaginable horror of ACTUALLY winning a championship seven months later.
The goal for any major league team’s front office is not to retain as many of their stars as possible, but to continually put their respective teams in the best possible positions to win their divisions, and hopefully a championship.
Not only did the Red Sox get beat in the standings by the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays last season, they also got beat in the draft due to the luxury tax penalties. Boston didn’t make their first pick in the draft until 43rd overall. By the time they picked, New York had already made two of their picks, and Tampa made three.
Red Sox ownership have practically shouted from the mountain tops about their desire over the past couple seasons to keep Betts in Boston for his entire career. They have never gotten the same rhetoric from their all star lead-off man.
Like most athletes not named Chris Sale or Xander Bogaerts, Betts is more interested in money than winning championships. Perhaps that’s why he has never shown up in the month of October? And also possibly why Julio Lugo has better numbers in the postseason?
During the championship seasons of 2004, 2007, and 2013, the Red Sox did not have one single crippling contract on their books that hindered the front office from addressing any area’s of need for their teams. They consistently made smart trades and signings. Boston fans should not forget where they came from, or what made their team great.
Don’t blame the Red Sox for not meeting the demands of Mookie Betts. They are acting in the best interest of long term success, because it’s the right thing to do. This is not a rehash of the Jon Lester debacle from 2014. Not even close. Life will go on, and championships will be won.