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Mookie Betts: "I Don't Expect Anything To Happen Till I'm A Free Agent"

New York Mets v Boston Red Sox

Sometimes, you have to treat quotes like a nice glass of wine. You’re gonna lift that glass up, swirl it around a little bit, maybe give it a whiff, take a small sip, swish it around in your mouth a little bit to let it hit all those taste buds, and then you can finally drink it down. I had to do that with this Mookie Betts quote.

Like you, I want Mookie Betts in a Red Sox uniform for the rest of eternity. You see, what complicates that is that he’s the best baseball player on earth not named Mike Trout. With that distinction comes a gargantuan price tag. Now that we’ve seen guys like Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper and the aforementioned Trout get their big contracts, we have finally set the parameters for what a Betts extension (or free agent deal) might look like. Realistically, it should be north of Machado’s $300 million, south of Trout’s $430 million, and somewhere in the region of Arenado’s $32.5 million average annual value.

With the benchmarks set, we can safely say that after Betts reportedly turned down an offer that was in the neighborhood of $100 million and another that was in the neighborhood of $200 million that the reigning MVP was wise to wait this thing out. Silly me, I thought that after the game’s top stars got their money that Betts would have a much clearer idea of what it would take to sign an extension with Boston. That, on the surface, does not appear to be the case.

You can look at this one of two ways. Glass half full — Trout had similar comments about signing a contract extension to stay with the Angels for the rest of his career, and then he ended up signing anyway. Glass half empty — Betts has showed seemingly zero interest in signing an extension at any point. What’s having me lean more towards the glass have empty perspective is that Betts talked about how Trout could’ve gotten even more than the record $430 million had he waited to become a free agent. That should say to you that Betts has every intention of seeing what the highest bid is going to look like when all 30 clubs have a shot at signing the three-time All Star.

That’s not to say that an extension is impossible. Unlikely, sure. But not impossible. So, that begs the question of what would it take for Mookie to pass on his right to pursue free agency? $450 million? The Red Sox aren’t going to write that check, nor should they. Mike Trout is the bar. Plain and simple. If Trout signed for $430 million, then no active player in this game should make more than that. That’s just what the market is, whether Trout could’ve gotten more on the free agent market or not. That’s what he got. He’s the best player, and that’s what the best player got paid.

Because I’m hopelessly optimistic about the Red Sox eventually getting something done with Mookie, I’d like to point out that Betts said, “I don’t expect anything to happen until I’m a free agent,” not “I’m not interested in anything happening until I’m a free agent.” He doesn’t expect the Red Sox to make him an offer that would steer him away from pursuing free agency, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Sox won’t make one, right?

I’m sure the Red Sox have a number in mind that they’d prefer not to exceed. It’s just different when you’re talking about a homegrown player who also happens to be literally the best player in baseball who you could actually throw money at to be on your team. That’s what Mookie Betts represents here. If you’re not gonna break the bank for Mookie, then who do you do it for?

Of course, the Red Sox need to be cognizant of their payroll and the fact that guys like Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Xander Bogaerts are all coming up on free agency at the end of this year. But if you’re asking Dave Dombrowski who he’d keep if he could only keep one of those players, the answer is obviously going to be Betts. So, do the Red Sox make him a ridiculous offer before the end of next season in hopes that Betts will forgo his opportunity to test the open market, or do they let him see what else is out there, hoping that Boston’s offer, while likely south of Trout’s figure, is still one of the best, if not the best offer, that he’ll receive?

The cat and mouse game continues. One can only hope that if the Red Sox choose to make another run at extending Betts before free agency that they don’t do what they did with Jon Lester, and that’s make such a low ball, insulting offer that the choice to leave Boston during free agency could not be any easier. Let’s be better this time around.