The Red Sox have renewed outfielder Mookie Betts’ contract at a healthy $950K price, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). Betts, 24, has established himself as one of the game’s best players and is fresh off of an outstanding 2016 season in which he slashed .318/.363/.534 with 31 home runs and 26 stolen bases.
On the heels of that effort, Betts will take home the second-highest amount ever given to a 2+ service-class player who wasn’t eligible for arbitration, falling shy only of Mike Trout’s 2014 payday of $1MM. Nevertheless, the Red Sox weren’t able to get him to sign his name to the agreement. The club had the right to renew him at whatever amount it preferred, so long as it met or exceeded the league minimum salary, so it’s not as if he had much leverage. But it’s still somewhat notable that Betts was the organization’s only player to make the symbolic gesture of forcing the club to renew him.
That being said, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski says that he did not sense any bad feelings between the sides during negotiations, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports (Twitter links). Certainly, the club could have taken a harsher stance in setting the final number, but obviously had no interest in making a point at the expense of its relationship with a key player. As things turned out, says Betts, there’s no animosity on his part. (Via Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, on Twitter.)
It would not be surprising to see the sides back at the bargaining table sooner rather than later. If nothing else, there’ll be a hefty arbitration salary to negotiate next winter, but it’s also possible to imagine that the sides will explore a longer-term deal. While Boston enjoys three years of control over Betts beyond the upcoming season, the team’s leverage will wane as he gets closer to free agency and increases his earnings through the arb process.