Sox, Betts Agree to a 1-year Deal
By Michael Silverman
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox avoided the major embarrassment of having to take Mookie Betts, the American League MVP, to arbitration. The club settled with the 26-year-old outfielder on a $20 million contract for the 2019 season.
Besides Betts, the Red Sox also succeeded in reaching settlements with their 11 other arbitration-eligible players, a list that includes Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Eduardo Rodriguez. The settlements mean the ballclub will avoid arbitration hearings altogether this year.
Betts is under Red Sox control for two more seasons, this year and next. He sits atop the list of pending free agents the Red Sox will try to extend and lock up for a long-term contract before he enters free agency after the 2020 season.
Past negotiations with Betts have not gone well. He and the club could not come to an agreement on salaries the last two seasons. Before the 2017 season, Betts’ contract was renewed. A year ago, Betts and the club went to arbitration, with Betts winning his case and winding up with a $10.5 million salary in 2018. The Red Sox wanted to pay him $7.5 million this past season.
Had the Red Sox and Betts been unable to come to an agreement before Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline, the sides would have gone to arbitration again since the Red Sox do not negotiate after filing arbitration figures. The prospect of the ballclub arguing for a lower salary for the MVP winner would have been a particularly unflattering look for the Red Sox this year, and also serve as a red flag for their chances to come to an agreement on a contract extension for Betts.
A long-term deal that would dissuade Betts from filing free agency would be massive and there is no guarantee at all that Betts would be amenable to such a deal. Forecasting amounts would be premature until current free agent outfielder Bryce Harper, who is the same age as Betts, inks a deal this offseason. That contract could easily top $300 million in total value. With Betts still two years away from his shot at striking his own deal with any deal, the Red Sox would take many hints from Harper’s deal in order it to make it worth Betts’ while to skip free agency.
The $20 million salary for Betts represents a new high salary for a player with only four years of service. Betts joins Rick Porcello ($21 million), J.D. Martinez ($23.75 million) and David Price ($31 million) in the $20-plus million club for this coming season.
Betts’ season was stupendous, as he led the league in batting average (.346), runs (129) and slugging percentage (.640). He hit 32 homers and won a Gold Glove as well.
With amounts coming from sources including the Boston Sports Journal and the Boston Globe, the Red Sox reached the following settlements on 2019 salaries with these players: Bogaerts: $12 million; Bradley, $8.55 million; Eduardo Rodriguez, $4.3 million; Brock Holt, $3.575 million; Sandy Leon, $2.475 million; Matt Barnes, $1.6 million; Steven Wright, $1.375 million; Brandon Workman, $1.15 million; Brandon Swihart, $910,000. Earlier, the club reached settlements with relievers Tyler Thornburg and Heath Hembree.
The settlement figures confirm what is already known, which is that the Red Sox’s 2019 payroll will be massive, and could once again be higher than all other clubs.
The Red Sox are already committed to paying Dustin Pedroia a little over $15 million this season, along with payments to Pablo Sandoval of $18-plus million and $11.8 million to Rusney Castillo.