Red Sox settle with all arbitration players; Mookie Betts gets $20m
On the heels of a historic season, Mookie Betts will receive a historic salary bump.
According to multiple major league sources, Betts and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year, $20 million salary, the largest ever conferred upon a second-time arbitration-eligible player.
Betts’s increase of $9.5 million — after he received a $10.5 million salary award in arbitration last year — is the largest raise ever for a position player who had already been in his arbitration years.
Betts was one of 12 arbitration-eligible Red Sox players who reached agreement with the team before Friday’s deadline for players and teams to file figures.
Xander Bogaerts ($12 million), Jackie Bradley Jr. ($8.55 million), Eduardo Rodriguez ($4.3 million), Brock Holt ($3.575 million), Sandy Leon ($2.475 million), Matt Barnes ($1.6 million), Brandon Workman ($1.15 million), and Blake Swihart ($910,000) also reached agreements Friday.
Tyler Thornburg ($1.75 million), Steven Wright ($1.375 million), and Heath Hembree ($1.3125 million) reached agreements earlier.
Bogaerts, who was arbitration-eligible for the third and final time before reaching free agency after the 2019 season, was awarded the second-largest salary bump, with his $12 million salary representing nearly a $5 million increase over 2018. He earned that jump with perhaps his most complete season, hitting .288 while achieving career highs in homers (23), RBIs (103), OBP (.360), slugging (.522), and OPS (.883).
Of the 12 players, all but Thornburg received increases. Assuming that all the players remain with the Sox, those combined increases will tack on just over $23 million to the payroll beyond 2018 levels — roughly offsetting the payroll flexibility created by the conclusion of Hanley Ramirez’s four-year, $88 million contract.
The agreements were significant in that the Red Sox were prepared to take a file-and-trial approach to the arbitration process, meaning they would proceed to a potentially contentious hearing.
Last year, the Sox went to arbitration with Betts, though both sides described the process as respectful. Betts won his case for $10.5 million rather than the Red Sox’ filed offer of $7.5 million.
Betts earned the record-setting raise this time after a remarkable MVP season in which he hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 homers and 30 steals while playing Gold Glove defense. While the MVP award was his first, he finished second in 2016 and sixth in 2017.
The Red Sox avoided a salary disagreement by lavishing a huge salary on the 26-year-old, whom they want to retain beyond his eligibility for free agency following the 2020 season.
“There’s nothing more important in baseball operations than drafting really, really well, developing well, and then hopefully retaining some players who you draft and develop as superstars,” Red Sox CEO and president Sam Kennedy said in October.
“To that end, John Henry, Tom Werner, Dave Dombrowski, yours truly have made it crystal clear to Mookie that specifically we hope he is a member of the Boston Red Sox for his career. We want nothing more than that.”
Whether they hang on to him remains to be seen, particularly given Betts’s oft-stated preference to continue the year-to-year negotiations that have served him well financially and have done nothing to detract from his on-field performance. But for now, the Sox made clear their recognition of Betts as a franchise-level talent with a historic deal.
|Player||2018 salary||2019 salary||Increase|
|Mookie Betts||$10.5 million||$20m||$9.5m|
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||$6.1m||$8.55m||$2.45m|
Information from industry sources, compiled by Alex Speier