Former American League Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts’s future with the Red Sox is uncertain.
Betts, who has one year remaining on his contract, has reportedly turned down multiple attempts from the Red Sox to ink him to a long-term deal over the past few seasons, and it’s possible he’ll be on the move in the coming months. Regardless of where he plays this year, he’ll get a significant – perhaps record-setting – amount of money when he hits free agency at the end of the season.
The question now is whether he stays with the Red Sox for one more year or whether they decide to trade him to save money and potentially get a better crop of prospects in return.
Experts offered their opinions on how they see the situation unfolding.
Ken Rosenthal called this a complicated decision.
MLB on FOX reporter Ken Rosenthal joined “Hot Stove” this past Tuesday to discuss Betts’s future.
He said the Red Sox will sit down with Betts’s representation well before camp starts and have active conversations about an extension.
“They have had, in the past, active conversations about an extension,” Rosenthal said. “So far, those conversations have not borne any fruit.”
Rosenthal pointed out that the club’s estimated payroll, according to FanGraphs, is $229 million. That includes arbitration projections for 10 different players, with $27.7 projected for Betts, and a 2020 luxury tax threshold of $208 million. He said keeping Betts would mean the Red Sox go back over the luxury tax payroll when their goal is to get under. Rosenthal added that moving Betts would get the Red Sox significant prospects in return, whereas as next year’s compensation for Betts would be a draft pick.
“You can do better than that in trade,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t know how much better, but you can certainly do better. That’s the choice that they’re going to face. It’s a financial decision, it’s a competitive decision, and it’s a complicated one, for sure.
Jon Heyman expects Betts to stay in Boston this season.
Earlier this week, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman noted that the Red Sox will likely gauge the trade market for Betts this winter, however Heyman isn’t confident anything will stick.
He believes it’s unlikely a team would want to give up some of its top prospects and pay $28 for one year of Betts.
While Red Sox will likely gauge the trade market for Mookie Betts this winter, there’s great skepticism any interested team will trade a package of great prospects and pay about $28M for 1 year even for a superstar such as Betts.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 12, 2019
Earlier this month, on Radio.com’s “Big Time Baseball,” Heyman said it’s possible the Red Sox will enter a “modified rebuild,” but it’s more likely they’ll try to win it all with close to their current roster, including Betts.
“One year to go before free agency, and it’s going to be tough to lock him up,” Heyman said, starting near the 44-minute mark. “He’s basically said he’s intent on becoming a free agent, so he’s going to be mentioned in trades, but I’m here to tell you today that I’m still going to be surprised if they trade Mookie Betts.”
He said he expects the Red Sox to try to win it all this season, saying that it’s difficult to let go of a player like Betts both because of his talent and because of his contract situation.
“What exactly will you get for him?” Heyman said. “You’re not going to get even 50 cents on the dollar.”
Christopher Gasper compared Betts to Kawhi Leonard.
Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe said it would constitute “management malpractice” if the Red Sox didn’t explore the market for Betts.
He compared the situation to that of NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard, noting that the Red Sox should market Betts as a “transformative franchise player.” While he might only be a one-year rental, like Leonard was with the Toronto Raptors, he could also help bring a franchise a championship like Leonard did.
“Ask the Toronto Raptors if they regret dealing for one year of Leonard,” Gasper wrote. “He changed their culture and their reputation as faux contenders. He delivered a championship to the North before bolting for the Los Angeles Clippers. One year of the Kawhi Experience was worth it for the Raptors. One year of Betts could do the same for a lucky bidder.”
Gasper pointed out that Betts would cost a team both young talent and a one-year arbitration salary estimated at $28 million. He then called Betts a “transcendent player,” noting that his trade value should outweigh his contract circumstances.
Red Sox' 2019 AL MVP Finishes:
5. Xander Bogaerts
8. Mookie Betts
12. Rafael Devers
T21. J.D. Martinez
Prior to 2019, the last time the Sox had 3 players finish in the top 12 was 2011 (Ellsbury-2nd, Gonzalez-7th, Pedroia-9th).
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) November 15, 2019
Later in the article, he continued to compare Betts and Leonard, pointing out that one player can make more of a difference in basketball but pointing out how similar the situations are. Leonard was 27 when he was traded, and Betts is currently 27. Both players affect the game on defense as much as they do on offense, Gasper wrote, but both prefer to “quietly go about their greatness.”
He then proposed some potential landing spots: the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, and New York Mets. Gasper noted that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s boss in Tampa Bay.
“How well the Sox can sell Betts’s impact will inform their options and their decision,” Gasper said. “But simply throwing up your hands and lamenting that there can’t be a reasonable return because he comes with only a year of control shows a lack of imagination and determination.”
Alex Speier believes it’s unlikely Betts will be traded.
Gasper’s colleague, Alex Speier, in an article in Saturday’s Globe, made it clear he isn’t quite as sold on Betts’s chances of getting traded.
“Some officials remain skeptical, feeling that the return for a superstar whose market would be limited by his anticipated $28-$30 million salary would be too modest to justify moving him,” Speier wrote.
He compared Betts’s status to that of Paul Goldschmidt, who went from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St. Louis Cardinals last season with one year remaining on his contract, pointing out that Goldschmidt was due “just” $14.5 million.
Speier wrote that Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said he expects it to be a “very creative” offseason, but Speier isn’t sure that will include Betts.
“There’s a chance that teams will steer clear of Betts as a trade target given both his salary and the unlikelihood of extending him before he explores the open market next winter,” Speier wrote.
Mookie Betts appreciation tweet! pic.twitter.com/jk6IpC8ruY
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 31, 2019
Mike Petriello provided a checklist for a team that might pursue Betts.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello provided a checklist for what’s needed in a match for Betts.
He said Betts would only go to a contender that needs an outfielder, can satisfy Boston’s needs in prospects, can take on the estimated $28 million or so Betts will get in 2020, and isn’t the Yankees or Rays.
He said the best outcome for the Red Sox is to keep Betts and sign him to a long-term contract, but he pinpointed the Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Mets, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres as potential landing spots if a trade develops.
Time will tell where Betts plays next season, but it’s clear the Red Sox have a major decision on their hands.