Mookie Betts someday might stop and consider his legacy with the Boston Red Sox, but don’t expect that type of soul-searching to weigh heavily on the outfielder’s looming free agency decision.
Two Red Sox legends — David Ortiz and Carl Yastrzemski — made appearances at Fenway Park over the past couple of weeks, with Big Papi throwing out a ceremonial first pitch mere months after being shot in the Dominican Republic and Yaz swinging by his old stomping grounds to watch his grandson, Mike Yastrzemski, suit up for the San Francisco Giants. Both former Boston stars, as you probably guessed, were greeted with adoration.
Betts, currently in his sixth season with the Red Sox, has a long way to go before he’s held in similar regard — Ortiz and Yastrzemski played 14 and 23 years, respectively, in Boston — but he’s certainly on the right path. There’s just one problem: Betts is set to become a free agent after the 2020 campaign, and the business side of baseball often prevents an apparent franchise cornerstone from spending his entire career with one organization.
Thus, Betts doesn’t foresee being swayed by the recent love fests or dreams of following in Ortiz’s and Yastrzemski’s footsteps. Instead, he’s content building his own baseball legacy, wherever that journey takes him.
“It’s pretty cool that they have their career in one place, but you can be remembered in that same fashion even if you put on a couple different jerseys,” Betts told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier this week. “It definitely doesn’t hurt to only put on one jersey … (But the Yastrzemski celebration) doesn’t sway me (about the future) one way or the other.”
Betts, who turns 27 next month, has four All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, an MVP Award and a World Series title on his résumé. The Red Sox almost certainly would like to retain him for the foreseeable future, all things being equal.
The question is whether the Red Sox believe they can afford to keep him around, as Betts likely will command a huge contract on the open market. If not, the Red Sox, who are in the process of replacing recently fired president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, might need to explore trading their superstar right fielder at some point before he reaches free agency.
Either way, Betts remains focused on performing at a high level, understanding that everything else will take care of itself in time.
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