The 2019 season is in its elder phase and the Red Sox are officially eliminated from playoff contention. There’s not much more that they can do aside from playing spoiler to those who are still on the cusp of breaking into that second Wild Card spot.
So with the Red Sox dream of repeating as World Series Champions wiped away, it’s time to start looking ahead to the offseason where there will be a handful of major decisions that could heavily affect the future of the organization.
With that being said, even though there are contracts on the table for pivotal pieces on this roster such as Brock Holt–and yes, I would place Holt in that category–it appears as though that the larger concern for most are the situations surrounding slugger J.D. Martinez and reigning MVP, Mookie Betts.
To hone in on Betts though, the soon to be 27-year-old sits on a contract that will allow him to enter free agency following the 2020 season.
The Red Sox have run into similar situations with a few of their current players who were on the cusp of free agency. The difference though between Betts and these other players on the roster? They were and have been vocal about their desire to stay with the organization. One of those players being J.D. Martinez.
Back in July during the MLB’s Mid-Summer Classic, Martinez was asked to discuss his potential opt-out following this season. There he expressed his wish to remain with Boston for the remainder of his career alluding to the way that they treat their players coupled with the fact that they have been his favorite team since he was a kid with big-league aspirations.
Betts however, when given the opportunity to quell the minds of the Red Sox faithful with a simple, “I would like to stay with the organization for years to come”, he specifically referenced keeping a legacy with a ballclub even if you move on to wear another jersey via the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
Over the last week, Betts stood and watched Fenway Park erupt into applause and admiration for one of its most beloved members of Cooperstown and one of its all-time greats, Carl Yastrzemski.
Yaz electrified a ballpark that was looking for seemingly anything to be excited about. When he appeared to take part in what essentially turned into a “Yaz Appreciation” series with his grandson and current member of the San Francisco Giants, Mike Yastrzemski, looking on as a current member of this franchise could have been striking. But Betts didn’t allow that to sway his upcoming decisions in either direction.
And with that comes the most telling line from Speier’s piece with Betts. Betts goes on to say:
“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. 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’ inability to express any sort of wish to stay with the organization that drafted him back in 2011 should raise concern for those who want the outfielder–who is currently revered as one of the game’s best today–to remain with the team for at least another contract length.
What’s the harm in stating that you’d like to continue your career with the ballclub that you’ve already cemented a small legacy with? Does he believe that it could result in other clubs GMs not making a strong attempt at bidding for his services come his time following the 2020 season? Or is just simply due to the fact that he doesn’t see himself wearing a white and red Red Sox jersey after signing a new deal that is almost guaranteed to be massive in length and heavily lucrative?
Boston isn’t for everybody and that’s something we’ve come to understand over this phenomenal championship run that began in 2004. There have been players who have come through the organization via trade or free agency who you could refer to as meek, who didn’t fit the mold of the sports culture here in Massachusetts.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of the sport you play here, the media attention can be overwhelming and exasperating. If you’re not built mentally to consistently have cameras shoved into your face following another tough loss or a dreadful season, Boston can be an insufferable place to be. Would it shock anybody if that plays a pivotal factor in Betts’ potential desire to play elsewhere?
Like most things though, it will come down to money. Following the latest offseason where we watched enormous deals get completed, it became clear that if it’s money that he’s after, Betts can receive a hefty payday comparable to likes of Bryce Harper who is in the first year of his new 13-year, $330 million deal.
Betts has the ability to become an all-time Red Sox great if he does remain here in Boston and continues to play the way that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. And let’s not kid ourselves. If John Henry and–insert new GM here–feel the need to keep Betts with the ballclub, they can afford whatever it would take to get that done. But that then boils down to the question of whether or not it’s worth it.
But if you’re someone who wants to see number 50 in right field for the next 10 seasons, don’t count on it.
Betts has essentially screamed into the void that he doesn’t have an unbreakable bond with the reigning World Series Champions. Again, if he didn’t want to uproot his career and move on, he’d say so. If Betts simply said, “I want to be here and nowhere else” much like Martinez and Chris Sale did, the media would fire that quote out immediately putting everything to rest, for now. He’s had chance after chance to put people’s minds at ease who don’t want to see him leave. But chance after chance, time after time, he’s refused to do it.
It’s tough to imagine Betts will remain in Boston following the 2020 season, especially if John Henry requests he take a hometown discount. Frankly, would it shock you if Betts is dealt this winter?
Now, this isn’t to say that Betts is looking to get out of Boston the moment that the opportunity arises. But it’s become explicitly clear that he doesn’t have a dying devotion to his current situation.