No sooner had the anouncement been made about Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million contract than calls were already out about who might be next to get the big numbers, and former Overton High School star Mookie Betts was among the first to be mentioned.
Bob Nightengale, writing for USA Today, noting Harper’s historic deal, wrote, “A new bar has been set for MVP outfielders Mike Trout of the Angels and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox.”
Both Trout and Betts will be eligible to become free agents after the 2020 season.
But even before Harper’s figures were known, the outlook in Boston was on Betts, timing and money.
A report by WBZ, the CBS affiliate in Boston, took interest in the contract extension of Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arendado, with Betts in mind. Arenado’s contract had been set to expire after the 2019 season, so the Rockies made a pre-emptive move. They signed the star third baseman to a contract extension in an effort to avoid losing him to free agency.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic had Arenado’s deal totaling eight years and upward of $260 million, an average of $32.5 million per year. WBZ pointed to the potential of a contract extension for Betts and/or Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
According to WBZ, if Betts performs in his normal fashion this season, “then a case could be made (and will be made by agent Steve Veltman) that Betts is an equal or superior player to Arenado, and thus deserves a similar or richer contract at the end of the 2019 season.”
Contract extensions are becoming fashionable, even on new acquisitions, such as the one the Reds pulled off with pitcher Sonny Gray. Gray agreed to an extension when it was presented as a pre-requisite for a deal between the Reds and the Yankees, sending Gray to Cincinnati.
Mike Cole, reporting for NESN, a hub for Red Sox coverage, said Harper’s deal “almost certainly will be viewed as the foundation for Mookie Betts’ contract, whether it comes as an extension or a free-agent deal.”
Jordan Bastian of mlb.com got a reaction from former National League MVP Kris Bryant of the Cubs. When asked if the Arenado deal helped set a bar for him, Bryant, who played AA ball for the Tennessee Smokies, said, “Yeah. Totally. You always look at what the other people at your position do in terms of the contracts, and you compare yourself accordingly.”
So what did Betts’ think of all the money being shelled out?
In a report from Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, when asked about Harper, Betts said, “He deserves it. That and more. Great player, so good for him.”
In the same report, when it was suggested that the Harper deal set a road map for his own future, Betts replied, “Not really. We’re all different players. We all have different things that are important. Like I said, good for those guys. They deserve it. I’ll just continue to worry about what’s going on now.”