In the wake of Mike Trout’s 10-year extension worth a reported $360 million revealed Tuesday, which brings his current contract to an astounding 12 years and $426.5 million, eyes naturally turned toward the next-biggest potential free agent, Mookie Betts, and whether he would also be interested in avoiding the open market.
But given Betts’ comments Wednesday in Florida, the Red Sox superstar appears committed to testing the free-agent waters.
When asked if he expects to enter the 2019 season without signing a long-term extension, Betts said, “That’s exactly what I expect. I don’t expect anything to happen until I’m a free agent.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to go out and play,” continued Betts, who is eligible for free agency following the 2020 season -- the same year that Trout was set to hit the market. Betts is more than a year younger than Trout. “You can’t worry about the economics of the game right now. [The Red Sox] have to take care of what they have to take care of, and I have to take care of what I have to take care of. The common thing is to win a World Series, and I think it’s something we definitely both want to do.”
Betts confirmed a report by MLB Network insider Joel Sherman for the New York Post that he rejected Boston’s eight-year, $200 million extension offer following the 2017 season.
“Yeah, I was made an offer last year,” he said. “That was just a disagreement, which is perfectly fine.”
Betts, 26, is seen by many as perhaps the game’s second-best player now behind Trout, and he beat out the Angels superstar for the 2018 American League MVP Award as he led the Majors with a .346 average, .640 slugging percentage, 129 runs scored and 10.9 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference. Those numbers helped Boston win its fourth World Series championship in 15 years.
Trout’s extension came on the same day that Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman reportedly agreed to a five-year, $100 million extension, and it follows a series of other high-profile extensions signed by players like Nolan Arenado of the Rockies and Aaron Hicks of the Yankees. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado also raised the ceiling in the free-agent market with historic contracts signed with the Phillies and Padres, respectively, this offseason.
“Those guys have gotten great deals,” Betts said. “They can get what they got and some can get more. It’s been pretty good. Definitely a step in the right direction for the game. But there are still a lot of guys out there who haven’t signed anything. Some have, some haven’t. I think once we got some of those guys that are on the market off [of it], I think things will be a lot better.”
Betts, for the record, did not dismiss the notion that he and Boston could come to an agreement before the 2020-21 offseason. He repeatedly focused on the Red Sox’s current World Series title defense and his remaining two years in Boston in his comments Wednesday.
“Why not?” Betts said of potentially bridging the gap with his club. “You should definitely keep your ears open and see what is said. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree on or take whatever is given. Like I said, I love it here. I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.
“I’m under no pressure to do anything,” he continued. “It’s OK for two sides to disagree. It’s perfectly fine. It’s normal. Like I said, I’ve got two more years. I’m going to make the best of them. I’ve got to work on year one right here, go out and do my best to help the team win. Also next year, it’s one of those things where it’s all right to disagree.”
Betts notably avoided arbitration with the Red Sox in January by signing a one-year, $20 million deal that set a record for a player in his second season of arbitration eligibility.