The reigning American League Most Valuable Player was among 10 players who avoided salary arbitration with the Red Sox ahead of Fridayís deadline.
Mookie Betts heads the list of one-year deals announced by Boston in an evening release. The right fielder and the Red Sox reportedly settled at $20 million, a figure representing a near-record raise for any player prior to hitting free agency. Betts was awarded $10.5 million in arbitration prior to the 2018 season, one in which he helped power Boston to its fourth World Series championship this century.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., utility men Brock Holt and Blake Swihart, catcher Sandy Leon and pitchers Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brandon Workman and Steven Wright also agreed to terms with the Red Sox. Bogaerts and Holt are each eligible for free agency following the upcoming season while Betts, Bradley, Leon, Wright and Workman all hit free agency after the 2020 season.
Betts became just the 11th Red Sox player to capture MVP honors and the third since 1986, joining Mo Vaughn (1995) and Dustin Pedroia (2008). He topped the A.L. in Wins Above Replacement and led the league in batting average, slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Betts also scored 129 runs out of the leadoff spot in the order, tying Clevelandís Francisco Lindor for the league lead.
The settlement with Betts is noteworthy for several reasons. Boston forced him through the February hearing process prior to the 2018 season and ultimately paid well above its initial bid of $7.5 million. There was no need to open up what can be an acrimonious process this time around.
This also sets a new floor for any extension talks the Red Sox might hope to conduct with Betts prior to hitting the open market. The looming signings of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado should give Boston an idea of where to open negotiations with Betts, who turns 27 in October. Barring injury or an unexpected dip in performance, he should be in line for a deal approaching eight years and $30 million per season.
It was only a couple hours after Betts agreed to terms that a new standard was set for a raise handed to an arbitration-eligible player. Right-hander Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets settled at $17 million, more than double the $7.4 million he earned while winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2018. deGromís raise of $9.6 million is $100,000 more than the one Betts will receive.
The Red Sox are in danger of exceeding the final threshold of the Competitive Balance Tax for the second straight year. Doing so again will cost Boston draft position and a significant tax on all overages levied by Major League Baseball. Assuming projected salaries from the website Cotís Contracts are correct, the Red Sox have committed more than $235 million of the $246 million they would have available before reaching the final tax threshold.
Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, Eduardo Nunez and Tyler Thornburg are also among Bostonís free agent class after 2019. Porcello carries the highest salary among that group at $21.125 million this season. The final season of the ill-advised five-year contract signed by third baseman Pablo Sandoval prior to 2015 will also come off the clubís books.