Red Sox

Will Mookie Betts get paid in free agency this winter? Signs point to no

Will Mookie Betts get paid in free agency this winter? Signs point to no

Mookie Betts has bet on himself throughout his career and been richly rewarded for it.

Then COVID-19 happened.

When the Red Sox traded Betts to the Dodgers this winter, it was because they knew they couldn't afford the impending free agent. He had already turned down a long-term offer of roughly $300 million, pegging his worth at closer to $400 million.

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After six years of contract tenders and arbitration raises, Betts found himself only months away from free agency and a haul virtually guaranteed to make him baseball's second-highest-paid player behind Mike Trout of the Angels.

Now there's a pandemic and all bets are off, leading to a difficult question: what will Betts' market be this winter?

Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons has already posited that Betts will be lucky to make $250 million, but in conversations with league executives, even that number feels high. The dual whammy of the pandemic and looming CBA negotiations suggests this coming winter will be a free agent wasteland.

"The landscape has completely changed," said one AL executive. "No one knows what it's going to look like."

Considering the premium ownership has placed on reining in salaries while stadiums remain empty, it's easy to envision a winter where money is scarce and even superstars like Betts are forced to play on short-term deals in the hopes of scoring a better long-term contract once the game's finances stabilize.

Unfortunately, with a second wave of virus potentially hitting this fall and a vaccine nowhere in sight, the current economic conditions could remain in place for 2021 and beyond.

Every action baseball's owners have taken during the negotiation to start the 2020 season has focused on limiting player pay. Their first handful of proposals capped salaries at 35 percent of original pay, and about a quarter of the league's owners were reportedly in favor of canceling the season rather than paying the players anything.

To think that this same group would then turn around and open their checkbooks this winter defies common sense.

So where does that leave Betts? The odds of him returning to the Red Sox are low, because his former team is trying to clear payroll to begin a messy rebuild and has already decided it couldn't afford him once. Even if his price came down to $250 million, he'd be more likely to take that money in Los Angeles than Boston.

Call it the Jon Lester Principle — trading a player during a contract dispute decreases the odds of a return.

Because so few teams could afford Betts to begin with, his best bet might be staying in Los Angeles. If it's a long-term deal, it won't be for the Trout-Manny Machado-Bryce Harper money that Betts would've command in normal times. He could effectively extend arbitration by playing for one year and $30 million, but that puts him back into free agency in 2021 a year older (28) and thus a year less desirable for a long-term extension.

Making matters worse, the 2021 season is the last under the current CBA, and if the past three months have been any indication, getting the players and owners to agree on the day of the week, let alone how to divide billions in revenue, is a recipe for a work stoppage.

That means Betts might not reach true free agency until 2023, at which point he'll be entering his age-30 season, when his earning power will be considerably decreased.

That's nothing like the scenario he envisioned when he repeatedly declined long-term offers from the Red Sox in order to secure nearly $60 million in arbitration decisions.

What once looked like the offseason of Mookie may end up becoming the winter of his discontent.

How David Price opting out of 2020 season impacts Red Sox, MLB

How David Price opting out of 2020 season impacts Red Sox, MLB

We won't see David Price in Dodger blue this season, after all.

The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher announced Saturday via Twitter he won't play in Major League Baseball's shortened 2020 season, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dodgers said in a statement they fully support Price's decision.

A handful of other stars already have opted out of the 2020 season -- including Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond and Washington Nationals teammates Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross -- but Price is the biggest star yet to back out.

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From a business perspective, Price's decision saves the Red Sox some cash: Boston no longer has to pay its $5.7 million share of Price's $11.5 million prorated salary for 2020 after trading him to Los Angeles this offseason, per The Boston Globe's Alex Speier.

The Red Sox were just under the luxury tax for their 2020 payroll prior to the pandemic, and while the 2020 luxury tax in the age of COVID-19 has yet to be determined, per Speier, taking Price off their books gives them some flexibility.

But Price's decision obviously is about much more than money. A handful of players already have tested positive for COVID-19 since teams began training camps July 1, and the 34-year-old veteran is one of several players who have legitimate safety concerns about playing the season.

Price was expected to be a key rotation member for the World Series favorite Dodgers, and his decision to step away might cause others to follow his lead.

MLB, MLBPA announce initial coronavirus testing results

MLB, MLBPA announce initial coronavirus testing results

MLB and the MLB Players Association announced the results of the league's initial round of coronavirus testing on Friday.

According to their joint statement, 31 players and seven staff members tested positive out of the 3,185 total individuals tested (1.2 positivity rate). Nineteen of 30 teams had positive cases.


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While the results are promising, it's important to note there still will be significant health and safety hurdles for the league to avoid a spread when the 60-game season begins later this month. A number of teams, including the Boston Red Sox, started workouts Friday at their home ballparks.

Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Friday the team has some positive COVID-19 cases. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez did not join the rest of the team for the first day of workouts as he was "around somebody who was sick" and awaiting the results of his own coronavirus test.