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Bryce Harper contract talk leads to Mookie Betts reminder

Rob Bradford
November 08, 2018 - 11:20 am

Life is good for Mookie Betts, and it only figures to get better.

Just a few days removed from his 26th birthday the Red Sox outfielder won a World Series and welcomed his first child into the world. And in one week he will likely be named American League MVP.

Then comes the really interesting stuff.

Within the next month or so Bryce Harper is likely to be signing his free-agent contract. That would be the same player and deal Betts discussed at this past season's All-Star Game.

"I’m really curious to see how it’s going to play out," Betts said back in July. "We’ll see what kind of records he breaks. We all know what kind of player he is. I think that may affect some things going forward." The outfielder added, "Things kind of come full circle now. My peers are going through what is soon to come. I’ll definitely be locked in to see what they get."

Harper, who is nine days younger than Betts, has been the talk of the very young offseason thus far. His agent, Scott Boras, has already termed the free agency as "Harper's Bizarre" while calling the outfielder "generational" and "iconic." And that's just the start.

It has been reported that the Nationals already offered Harper a deal worth around $300 million, which was turned down and then taken off the table. But at least we have somewhat of a starting point, with an inkling of where things will ultimately land. The current highest paid player? The Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton who is existing under a 13-year, $325 million deal. With both Harper and Manny Machado on the market this year, the educated guess is Stanton will drop to No. 3 by the time next season rolls around.

That brings us to Betts.

If the Red Sox outfielder keeps doing what he's doing there is little question his figure will blow by these two guys we're zeroing in on this time around. Heck, if Betts was to become a free agent right now he probably would be king of the financial hill. As good as Harper and Machado are, who is a more overall impactful player than Betts? Maybe Mike Trout, whose six-year, $140 million extension runs out the same year Betts becomes a free agent after the 2020 season.

It should be realized that as good as Harper is, his last Betts-like season came in 2015 when he totaled a .330 batting average and 1.109 OPS to go along with 42 homers. Since then? A 2016 campaign that finished with a modest .814 OPS. An injury-plagued 2017 season that resulted in 111 games played. And this past year where the "generational" player hit just .249 with an .889 OPS.

The Red Sox knew this reality would springboarded with the likes of Harper and Machado. It will be no surprise, which is why they have unsuccessfully attempted to ink Betts to some sort of extension prior to the leadoff hitter winning his record-setting $10.5 million arbitration case last offseason. (He refused to talk contract during the season.)

But even with the previous expectations, there is something about seeing the Harper conversation officially kicking off that should truly start bringing Betts' future into focus.

(For all the early rumors on the Bryce Harper market, check out MLB Trade Rumors by clicking here.)

Related: Source: Red Sox' interest in Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi lukewarm

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