By Mark Paulette,
It has come time for my yearly rant against the Red Sox front office/plea with those very same people to ink Mookie Betts to a long term deal. In the past 48 hours, several organizations have done what the Red Sox have simply refused to do; pony up large sums of cash to keep their homegrown talent where it belongs – home.
Obviously, there was Mike Trout’s megadeal. 12-years, $430-million dollars. It may seem like crazy Monopoly money, but if there was any player worth such a deal, it’s Trout. The guy has finished top-2 in MVP voting every full season he’s played in the majors, and averages .307, 37 homers and 99 RBI per 162-games for his career. The Los Angeles Angels knew they couldn’t let their prized possession walk, so they made a deal the 27-year-old couldn’t refuse. A+ job, Halos.
Then there’s the Houston Astros, who Tuesday locked up third baseman Alex Bregman to a 6-year, $100-million extension, effectively buying out his first two years of free agency. Bregman, who broke out last year in his second full season, hit .286/31/103. At 24 years old, does that one season command a 9-figure contract? No, of course not. The Astros would have had every right to keep Bregman, who made $599,000 last year, in the arbitration system and give him incremental raises per season as his production merrited. But what Houston did was the smart play, and the long play, by paying for potential. And eventually, by the time Bregman is in his prime on the back-end of the extension, the deal will likely seem like a bargain for the production they’re receiving.
Spending now to save later is not a new theme in baseball. In 2008, two weeks into his big league career, Evan Longoria signed a 6-year deal that had the potential to be worth $44-million. The gamble more than paid off for the Rays, as Longoria began his career by hitting 60 home runs and driving in 198 runs in his first two seasons. Over the life of the deal, they got on average 27HR and 91RBI for about $7-million per season. Not bad business.
Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies made the same gamble, signing shortstop Scott Kingery to a 6-year, $24-million deal before he had even made his major league debut. The Phils are still waiting for the deal to pay off, as Kingery managed just a .226 average and eight home runs in 147 games last season as a rookie, but even if it takes 2-3 years to develop, having a productive shortstop at $4-million per season will make the wait worth it.
Finally, yesterday saw the Chicago White Sox sign prized outfield prospect Elroy Jimenez to a 6-year, $43-million deal. The 22-year-old has yet to play a single game in the majors, but is now locked up through 2026 and likely to be one hell of a bargain if everything goes according to plan.
These are all examples of what the Red Sox could have, and should have, done with Mookie Betts. Recent reports show that Betts rejected an extension offer from the Sox in 2017 worth 8-years and $200-million. While it may seem like a solid offer from the organization, let’s not forget that 18 months later, players of Mookie’s ilk are being scooped up for $260, $300, $330 and $430-million.
Boston made Mookie and offer he could refuse, so he did.
Now, content with working the arbitration system in his favor for the next two years before becoming eligible for free agency, it’s no longer just opposing pitchers, but the Red Sox who are staring at Mookie’s snarl. Once again, I’m left believing if Boston had just bit the bullet instead of trying to play ‘moneyball,’ and slightly overpaid to lock up their star, he’d be happily manning right field at Fenway for a much cheaper cost than what the negotiations will now be.
And I fear that should Mookie hit the open market, ‘ya Betts believe’ the biggest offer will not come from the hometown team.
Mark Paulette is the executive producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine