Red Sox sign nine but are headed to arbitration with Mookie Betts
The Red Sox gained some clarity about their 2018 payroll by reaching agreements with nine of the 10 arbitration-eligible players on their roster, including shortstop Xander Bogaerts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and starter Drew Pomeranz.
The team did not, however, reach agreement on a 2018 salary for Mookie Betts prior to Friday’s deadline to exchange salary figures for a potential arbitration hearing. Betts and the team will instead proceed to an arbitration hearing.
According to major league sources and reports, the team settled at the following figures for 2018:
■ LHP Drew Pomeranz (arbitration-eligible for the third and final time before he reaches free agency next winter): $8.5 million.
■ Bogaerts (second-time arbitration-eligible, two years from free agency): $7.05 million.
■ Bradley (second-time arbitration-eligible, three years from free agency): $6.1 million.
■ RHP Joe Kelly (third-time arbitration-eligible, one year from free agency): $3.825 million.
■ LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (first-time arbitration-eligible, four years from free agency): $2.375 million.
■ UT Brock Holt (second-time arbitration-eligible, two years from free agency): $2.225 million.
■ C Sandy Leon (second-time arbitration-eligible, three years from free agency): $1.95 million.
■ C Christian Vazquez (first-time arbitration-eligible, three years from free agency): $1.45 million.
■ RHP Brandon Workman (first-time arbitration-eligible, three years from free agency): $835,000.
Betts, meanwhile, filed a salary request for $10.5 million in 2018, while the Red Sox countered with a $7.5 million offer for a player who is arbitration-eligible for the first time and three years from potentially qualifying for free agency. This marks the second straight year in which Betts and the Sox have struggled to see eye to eye on the player’s value, as the team renewed Betts (rather than reaching agreement with him) for a $950,000 salary in 2017.
That said, the gap in the salary proposals doesn’t necessarily reflect the disparity in how the sides view the player’s worth. Arbitration filings involve strategy, as the sides argue in front of a judge about whether the player is worth more or less than the midpoint between the two filing numbers. Even if the judge determines a player to be worth $1 more than the midpoint figure, the player would then be awarded the full amount of his proposed salary.
Nonetheless, given the Sox’ interest in reaching a long-term deal that would keep Betts in Boston beyond his eligibility for free agency following the 2020 season, the initial challenges that the team has had in finding common financial ground is notable. According to assistant GM Brian O’Halloran, Betts and the Sox approached Friday’s deadline with the understanding that if they could not agree to terms, they would proceed to an arbitration hearing to settle his salary for the upcoming season.
“We had agreed with Mookie’s representatives that both sides would do everything we could to try to reach an agreement before exchange, but if we were not able to do so, we would use the arbitration process to determine his salary,” O’Halloran said in an email. “We were unable to reach agreement, so we will proceed to arbitration.”
While that means that an arbitrator will set Betts’s salary in 2018, O’Halloran made clear that the Red Sox remain hopeful of keeping Betts, a two-time All-Star and 2016 AL MVP runner-up, for the long haul.
“No hard feelings at all – reasonable people can disagree and sometimes it’s helpful to have a third party decide things like this,” wrote O’Halloran. “Mookie is a terrific player and person, and we hope he will remain in a Red Sox uniform for many years to come.”