It’s no secret Mookie Betts is leaning toward testing free agency after the 2020 season.
The superstar outfielder on many occasions has pointed to the business side of baseball when discussing his future with the Red Sox, and it’s fair to say he’s comfortable playing out the final year of his contract — with Boston or another team — before hitting the open market next winter.
With that strategy comes risk, obviously. While Betts could strengthen his case to earn a record-setting contract with a strong 2020 campaign, he also could damage his value if he — knock on wood — suffers an injury or fails to produce at an MVP-caliber level. Exploring a contract extension now would be the safer play — provided he’s interested in staying with the Red Sox long term — but it sure seems like he’d prefer to take a wait-and-see approach unless Boston comes over the top with an offer he can’t refuse.
Is this all just a reflection of Betts’ confidence in his ability to maximize his earnings by performing well in the final year of his current contract? Does he simply want to see which other teams might be interested in his services a year from now, perhaps with an eye toward leaving Boston? Or is Betts’ negotiating mindset rooted in a desire to set the bar for future free agents?
ESPN’s Joon Lee reported Thursday, citing sources, that one of the main reasons Betts wants to become a free agent is that the 2018 American League MVP understands the importance of what his next contract means for the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Mookie Betts knows his importance to the MLBPA & what signing a big FA contract means from labor standpoint for players. It’s one of the main reasons he wants to become a FA, per sources.
Chatter that he’s not signing an extension because he doesn’t like Boston is nonsense.
— Joon Lee (@joonlee) January 30, 2020
ESPN’s Buster Olney shared a similar sentiment Thursday while discussing Betts’ future on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria.”
“He understands his importance to the union,” Olney said, as transcribed by WEEI.com. “And the union needs guys like him to get to free agency. We’ve seen guys like Gerrit Cole and how much they’ve pulled the numbers up. … and Mookie will have the ability to do that.”
Maybe we’re reading too much into things. Ultimately, Betts could just want what’s best for him and his family, and who could blame him for that? Just like it’s hard to blame the Red Sox for reportedly considering trade offers for Betts given the uncertainty over whether they’ll be able to retain him beyond 2020.