Quick reactions to the news that the Red Sox and Mookie Betts have settled on a $27 million contract for 2020 and avoided arbitration...
-- While Betts will be handsomely paid, it feels like he could've squeezed the Red Sox for more if he really wanted to push. The $27 million tops Nolan Arenado's arbitration record of $26 million, but it's still less than the $27.7 million he was projected to earn via MLB Trade Rumors.
Considering Betts' status as a former MVP and four-time Gold Glover and All-Star, the Red Sox would've had a hard time defending a number lower than $27 million if Betts came in at $30 million. He traded maximum value for certainty.
-- Along these lines, the last two years have punctured the idea that Betts intends to maximize every last dollar of value.
He settled for $20M last year and probably would've won more in arbitration then, too. We'll see if this translates to free agency, though the one area where Betts has remained steadfast is in his desire to hit the market.
-- That said, the fact that the sides were able to strike an agreement while avoiding a potentially acrimonious hearing at least signals a willingness to communicate and compromise. If this negotiation is the first real test of new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, it feels like he passed.
-- Of course, we're not done discussing Betts. The Dodgers are reportedly interested and the Red Sox still need to cut at least $20 million in payroll to drop below the luxury tax threshold of $208 million.
The fact that he's now locked in at $27 million for 2020 allows any trade negotiations to proceed without uncertainty. Had Betts and the Red Sox not agreed, any acquiring team would've inherited Boston's arbitration figure for a hearing, with a potential $5 million swing between winning and losing.
-- The impact of arbitration on long-term extensions is often overstated, as if the bad taste of a hearing can derail a negotiation two years later.
Any goodwill or bad will tends to dissipate long before it actually comes time to sign for the long haul or hit the market, as Red Sox fans might remember from the Pedro Martinez option extravaganza of 2003, when the team picked up his 2004 contract seven months early in the hopes that it might convince him to take less in an extension. He instead left for the Mets after the 2004 World Series.
So we don't want to lend too much significance to Betts signing a deal that qualifies as slightly team-friendly, but maybe we shouldn't close the door on his Red Sox career just yet, either.