In my last article, Red Sox 2020: Outfield, I received a lot of pushback regarding this statement on Mookie Betts.
Now, I agree that if Boston can get Mookie to sign at a “hometown discount”, then, by all means, do it. With that said, the Sox cannot afford a $300-plus million contract. With Legacy Agency as his agent, Mookie is set to get an offer in that neighborhood.
Let’s take a look deeper into this statement by starting with what the market value for Mookie Betts is. Spotrac puts Mookie’s value at $28.6M per year, which would be on par for players of his caliber. Mookie Betts is definitely worth $28.6 million-plus per year.
Now to address the Red Sox as an organization. It’s been known that the Red Sox do not offer “market value” contracts to homegrown talent. They have always and will continue to offer discounted contracts to players that grew within the organization. Prime examples of this are Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury.
With Betts’s market value and Boston’s organizational philosophy outlined, it’s time to crunch numbers. The Sox have 10 players entering third-year arbitration, one of those players being Betts. According to Baseball-Reference, it is estimated the Sox payroll after arbitration will be $224 million. That only includes a $5 million estimate in arbitration for Mookie, despite being paid $20 million in 2019.
Now, these numbers could be off due to players being released and for the sake of the argument, let’s put the Sox payroll at $200 million even. That is prior to signing any free agents such as bullpen depth or utility players. As mentioned above, this estimate is with only a five-million estimate to Betts for his arbitration.
Using 2019 as for reference, it is unlikely Mookie takes a pay cut from the $20 million he is making now, so the payroll would get bumped up to $215 million. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Sox sign a few unnamed free agents totaling $17M, raising their payroll to $232M. Can the Red Sox afford to tack on another $10M in 2020? I’m sure it’s possible, even with the luxury tax penalty.
But, is it worth handicapping and limiting the whole roster to sign one player? That is the ultimate decision the front office has to make when it comes to Betts. Obviously, these figures are only hypothetical, so the payroll can be lowered to make it not only possible, but reasonable to re-sign Betts. With that said, in this semi-realistic scenario, it doesn’t make sense.