Mookie Betts is playing like MVP winner again, so stop saying he's having down season

Alex Reimer
July 19, 2019 - 10:42 am

One of the main culprits for the Red Sox’ sluggish start to the season was Mookie Betts’ regression at the top of the lineup. The reigning MVP was hitting .282 through the first two months of the campaign with an OPS in the mid-.800s. It was a decent slash line, but failed to approach the Mike Trout-level of production that Betts displayed last year. In addition, Betts fell victim to some uncharacteristic defensive misplays in the outfield, increasing the perception that he was not carrying his proverbial weight.

They say first impressions are difficult to break, and as a result, Betts is still painted as experiencing a down season. But over the last month, that could not be further from the truth. Since June 15, Betts is hitting .324 with an OPS of .924. He also leads the league in runs scored and is fifth in the league in WAR. Rafael Devers, meanwhile, is ninth.  

On Thursday, Betts smacked his 14th home run of the season in the Red Sox’ 5-0 rout of the Blue Jays. It was Chris Sale’s first win at Fenway Park since last July and also featured a three-run home run from Devers. Even with all of the Red Sox’ troubles in the bullpen and gaping holes in the rotation, they should still grab hold of a wild card spot if the players at the top of the roster perform to their capabilities the rest of the way.

One of the most popular Red Sox topics on our airwaves in recent weeks has been whether they should sell at the deadline. But barring an egregious stretch against the Yankees and Rays, which isn’t entirely out of the equation, due to Boston’s 19-28 record against winning teams, it’s hard to imagine the 53-44 Sox falling much further than the two games out of the wild card they are right now. Teams with $230 million payrolls that are within striking distance of the postseason don’t sell off parts, especially a player like Betts, who remains one of the top five talents in the game.

It seems inevitable Betts will explore the free agent market when his contract expires in 2021, but to our knowledge, the Red Sox haven’t approached him with a market-level extension offer. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports the Sox offered Betts a $200 million deal in 2017, which falls well short of the $430 million contract Trout inked with the Angels prior to the start of the season.

Betts is a joy to watch on the field, and over the last four weeks, has been every bit of the MVP player he was during the World Series run. You don’t deal away players like that, especially when you still possess championship aspirations.