Mookie Betts Contract Extension: What Will it Take?

The last two off-seasons have been sour for many free agents, but a change appears to be on the horizon. Players have been outspoken about the level of talent left on the market well into March, including Mookie Betts. Are fears of failing to find mega deals in free agency causing players to sign extensions? Is a Mookie Betts contract extension next on the docket?

Elite players around the league are starting a trend

In recent weeks some of the top stars in the game such as Mike Trout and Nolan Betts Contract ExtensionArenado have signed massive contract extensions that eliminate them from their impending free agencies. Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox has not registered a single day of service time, yet just agreed to a six-year, $43 million deal.

Jimenez joins a list of names that also includes Ryan Pressly, Alex Bregman, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nola, Whit Merrifield, and Carlos Carrasco. Studs like Bregman, Nola, and the aforementioned Severino are signing away arbitration and free agency years to make better money now.

Despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually getting the mega deals they so desired, many quality players have been left behind on the free market well into March and beyond. Would a move to get extended before the murky waters of free agency make sense for Betts, too? He does not seem to think so.

Where does a Mookie Betts contract extension come into play?

When asked in a media scrum about his openness to an extension, Betts had this to say: “Why not? 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 (Boston). I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.”

While Betts certainly does not close the door on a future deal, his stance has never wavered. As questions mount, with contract totals and AAV records being shattered, many believe the Red Sox outfielder is next in line for a huge pay day.

In terms of trying to set a price, the Red Sox already set the baseline. Betts confirmed a report by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he was offered an extension last offseason. He turned it down. The verdict? An eight-year, $200 million beast of a deal. But given what has transpired in recent weeks, Mookie Betts seems to be one step ahead.

Trout’s colossal deal of $360 million over 10 years might be a good measuring stick for Betts. In 2018, Betts won the AL MVP award, the AL batting title, a gold glove, silver slugger, and made his third consecutive All-Star team. If Trout can command a deal of that size, then Betts surely can. Betts might even be able to land more.

What might a Mookie Betts contract extension cost?

If Betts continues to level himself with Trout for the rights to be baseball’s alpha dog, he might hit it big. Let’s say Betts puts up comparable numbers to his 2018 MVP season, with some expected drop off. The native Tennessean led the league in average (346), slugging (.640), runs (129) and WAR (10.9). With that in mind, it is not farfetched to think Betts could be MLB’s first $400 million man. It seems likely the Betts will seek a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of Trout’s $360 million. If he continues to produce at this pace, Betts might blow us all out of the water.

Betts Versus Trout: Who’s Better?

Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout as baseball’s best player? That seems to be one of the top questions heading into this season. Let’s start with what the two have in common.

Both were born in the early-90s, play the outfield, and are right-handed. They have been named to the All-Star Game in each of the past three years and both hit the free agent market in 2021.

How do they differ, generally speaking? Trout was a first round pick, has a much larger frame (6’2″, 235 lb.). He has played seven full major league seasons.

Betts was drafted slightly later, in the fifth round, is sized similarly to the average Joe (5’9″, 180 lb.). He has played four full major league seasons.

While speaking from a statistical stance, the question of favoring Mookie Betts versus Mike Trout is where this conversation really heats up.

The next great one?

Trout has been regarded as the ‘Mickey Mantle’ of this generation of ball players. He spent just one full season in the minors before being promoted to the majors for his major league debut in July 2011. He started 2012 at Triple-A and was called up to the majors in late April for good. As a rookie, he plated 639 appearances and led the American League in stolen bases (49) and runs scored (129). He was named an All-Star, honored with AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting.

In the six seasons since, he has started 6 All-Star Games, won 2 MVPs, and averaged 107 runs, 34 homers, 91 RBIs, 22 steals, and a 1.011 OPS.

From unknown to stardom

Tough to decide without knowing how far Betts has come in four years. After an unimpressive first season in the minors (292 plate appearances, 0 home runs, 20 steals, .658 OPS), he responded mightily while playing for two of the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliates in 2013, posting 15 home runs, 38 steals, and .923 OPS in 551 plate appearances. In 2014, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A (464 plate appearances, 11 home runs, 33 steals, .960 OPS) before being promoted to the big leagues in late June. Betts has been the Red Sox’s leadoff hitter ever since.

From 2015-2018, he has started 3 All-Star Games, won 3 Gold Gloves and 1 MVP. His averages look like this: 111 runs, 26 homers, 93 RBIs, 25 steals, and a .899 OPS.

It may seem as if Trout’s track record is more attractive. Do not discount Betts, however, as number 50 is the more durable player at this stage of his career (35 more starts than Trout in past two seasons). Betts also owns outclasses Trout in the most important department: World Series rings. Betts 1, Trout 0.

Johnny Cueto Could be in Play in Free Agency

It’s no secret that the Red Sox need to improve their pitching in the off-season. There will be a few notable targets available in the, including Johnny Cueto. Cueto was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Royals at the MLB trade deadline in a short-term rental to help Kansas City try to get over the top in their quest to win a championship.

However, Johnny Cueto will be a free agent after the season finishes and he has left the Johnny Cuetodoor open for a move to Boston. Per WEEI, Johnny Cueto told Rob Bradford during Kansas City’s visit to Fenway Park that he would like to come here since Boston has a “championship-caliber team.” According to WEEI, Cueto, who is also friends with Hanley Ramirez, said that he would consider it and that anything was possible.

Red Sox fans, is it safe to start fantasizing about Johnny Cueto in a Red Sox uniform again? His name came up a couple of times during the trade deadline, and Cueto told Rob Bradford that he thought it might happen at one point. Then he was traded to Kansas City, which was a good move for them since they’re trying to win this year, but I don’t think they’ll try to re-sign him in the off-season.  It would take a lot of cash to get him back, so that could mean he comes into play for a team like Boston with the resources to sign him.

And make no mistake—it will take a big contract to get Johnny Cueto to come here. I’m sure the team will try to get Hanley Ramirez to help convince him to make the move to Boston. That is, if Dave Dombrowski doesn’t off load Hanley first, since Hanley is essentially a DH, and the Red Sox have that position covered, at least for the time being, with David Ortiz.

The Red Sox should definitely give Johnny Cueto a long, hard look in free agency. He’ll be one of the top pitchers available, along with David Price, and it sounds like he’d be open to hearing what the team has to say. So, if anyone from the Red Sox front office happens to read this, please at least talk to the guy. Pretty please with a cherry on top?