Mookie Betts betting on himself is about to pay off

Rob Bradford
January 10, 2020 - 9:22 am

It's hard to argue with Mookie Betts' business approach so far.

First, he turned down a life-changing contract offer from the Red Sox prior to getting his first crack at arbitration.

"That was a really emotional time because I was like, ‘Mom, we’ve never seen this amount of money.’ She was like, ‘OK, cool. It’s a lot of money. I think we know it’s a lot of money. So let’s focus on the facts. Let’s focus on what is real and we took the emotions out of it.' The first one was definitely the hardest," said Betts, who ended up winning his first arbitration case, coming away with $10.5 million. "At the time we had never seen anything like that."

Then, after once again choosing not to buy out any arbitration years via an extension, the Red Sox met his price with a $20 million agreement for 2019. 

Now he has reached the last step before the ultimate line, free agency. Friday Betts' representatives will submit what they think his client is worth, with the Red Sox coming in with their figure. If no middle-ground can be reached then the outfielder will go to an arbitration hearing for the second time in his young career. 

MLB Trade Rumors (which is usually very accurate in these matters) projects Betts at landing a $27.7 million deal, which would break Nolan Arenado's mark ($26 million) for the biggest contract for a third-year arbitration-eligible player. (Update: Betts and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year, $27 million deal, avoiding arbitration.)

The notion that Betts has arrived at this point is an example of his approach throughout. Much like was the case a few years back you are likely to see fewer of the high-priced players reach a third year of arbitration-eligibility because of the previous uncertainty in the free-agent market. Remember the days of Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis? That's what was coming back, with more players jumping out the kind of extensions that bought out those final years of arbitration-eligibility.

But Betts has dug in and now it's about to pay off.

For one, big free-agent contracts have returned. This bodes well for the Sox star following 2020 with the concerns those living life in the past few offseasons endured.

He is also producing. This is now four straight years he has finished in the Top 8 in American League MVP voting.

Betts is slated to land in a free-agent class that no longer includes Mike Trout. In fact, unless Giancarlo Stanton has a huge season and opts-out of his deal, there will be nobody in Betts' class when it comes to the kind of pay-scale he will demand.

There likely won't be any resolution to Betts' future Friday, but just a reminder. Considering the importance of the player that should offer a pretty powerful reality check.