After an offseason full of fruitless speculation and devoid of any legitimate trade buzz, it appears the Red Sox have finally found a suitor for Mookie Betts. The Dodgers and Padres have both shown interest in the MVP outfielder over the past week or so. The question isn’t whether or not the Red Sox should trade Mookie Betts anymore, it’s whether Red Sox fans should want them to.
Betts certainly has made quite the impact on Boston in just 6 MLB seasons. With 4 All-Star appearances, an MVP award and a World Series championship, Betts is already one of the most decorated Red Sox in team history. It’s tough to walk away from that kind of player, but it may be in the team’s best long term interest.
Recent reports on Mookie Betts’ contract talks with the Red Sox have suggested that Betts is looking for a contract similar to that of Mike Trout’s that would make him the highest or 2nd highest paid player in all of baseball. While Betts’ track record would certainly suggest he’s earned that, the opposing track record of the success of teams who give out those massive contracts would suggest the Red Sox should pass on making such an offer.
Teams that have given out massive contracts to one star at the expense of the rest of their payroll haven’t faried to well in the MLB in recent years. Ever since the Angels gave Albert Pujols his massive contract, they haven’t made the playoffs. The Tigers haven’t won anything for years, but still carry Miguel Cabrera’s $30 million annual salary. The Phillies signed Bryce Harper just last season only to miss out on the postseason and watch from their couch as the team that let him walk in free agency went on to win the World Series. Giving out contracts worth $300-$400 million isn’t working for teams around the league and the long term ramifications of those deals are even more concerning.
Cabrera and Pujols used to be two of the most dynamic hitters in baseball. Now, both are well past their primes as neither have made an All-Star team since 2016, yet their teams are still paying them at the top of the market. That’s the problem with MLB contracts. Teams pay out the nose to get stars on their team at the expense of their future. Pujols and Cabrera were worth $30 million annually when they signed those deals, but everyone knew at the time that wouldn’t be the case by the time those deals hit their 7th and 8th years. It isn’t that Betts isn’t worth the money now, but it’s about what the Red Sox are supposed to do in 2029 when they have a 36 year-old Mookie Betts in their team making $35 million for 4 more seasons. Having $30+ million on your books for an average at best player can cripple a team, even one in a big market like Boston.
The current rumor is that the Dodgers could be willing to take David Price in a deal with the Red Sox to acquire Mookie Betts. If the Sox can swing this deal and clear what would be close to $60 million off their books, they should do it and fans should want them to do it. It isn’t about saving John Henry and Tom Werner money, it’s about the team having more flexibility down the road to make smarter moves than signing players to 12-year contracts. Letting go of Mookie Betts will hurt, but watching him turn into the next overpaid former legend on his last legs in 8 years would hurt a whole lot more.
Photo: (Elise Amendola – AP Photo)