The Red Sox have “at least internally discussed” looking into a contract extension with star youngster Mookie Betts, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. The team has yet to broach the subject with Betts or his representatives at Relativity Baseball, as Betts told Bradford “No, I haven’t done anything for that.”
Betts’ huge spring and Rusney Castillo’s oblique injury have seemingly cleared the path for Betts to begin the season as the Red Sox center fielder. Now that Betts has won a regular job within Boston’s crowded outfield situation, Bradford notes that the team has even more confidence in Betts’ future and could be willing to put that confidence into writing in the form of a multi-year contract. Of course, the Red Sox have already demonstrated their belief in Betts by making a virtual untouchable in trade talks this winter, particularly in holding firm when the Phillies have asked for Betts in exchange for Cole Hamels.
While every team would undoubtedly prefer to have is top young players locked up on affordable multi-year deals, such aggressive moves to sign players to early extensions are usually made by lower-revenue or rebuilding teams (i.e. the Astros extending Jon Singleton, the Royals extending Salvador Perez, or the Rays extending Chris Archer, Matt Moore or Evan Longoria). A larger-revenue team like the Red Sox, in theory, has more financial flexibility to “wait and see” with its prospects rather than try to achieve cost-certainty so soon. Bradford observes the the Sox didn’t look into early extensions for the likes of Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley or Xander Bogaerts, though since the latter two are represented by Scott Boras, those talks might’ve been a tough sell in any case.
Waiting even a year to extend Betts, however, could save the Red Sox some significant money. If Betts plays as well in 2015 as Boston expects, he’ll be a similar position service time-wise as Christian Yelich is now; Yelich, of course, just agreed to a seven-year, $49.57MM extension with the Marlins.
Betts made his Major League debut last season, hitting .291/.368/.444 over 213 plate appearances. He’s already under team control for the next six seasons, not being eligible for arbitration until after the 2017 campaign and not eligible for free agency until after 2020. Looking at other recent extensions for players with under a year of service time, it seems likely that Boston would aim for at least five guaranteed years and at least two option years on the contract, which would extend their control over Betts though at least one of his free agent years.
For his part, the 22-year-old outfielder hasn’t yet put much thought into signing an extension. “That’s a tough question. I don’t really know,” Betts said. “I think I would weigh my options and see what’s best for me with what’s best for the team. It’s kind of a mutual thing. It has to be fair and something that would give me some stability and not have to worry about it. It just depends on how things play out.”