Mike Trout set the market, and now Mookie Betts gets to cash in.
Trout on Tuesday reportedly agreed to a record-breaking 12-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels that will earn him $430 million. It’s a well-earned payday for the consensus best player in baseball, but it also will be used as a baseline for future negotiations for the sport’s best players.
Next in line for a gigantic payday is Betts, the reigning American League MVP who is coming off a historic season of his own with the Boston Red Sox. If Trout is the best player in baseball, Betts isn’t far behind, and when he becomes a free agent in 2020, it’s likely his price tag will reflect that notion.
Soon after the Trout news broke, part of the conversation centered on what Betts might be able to command when he’s up for free agency. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark pondered whether Betts will make more than Trout and even push the $500 million figure.
“I think it’s a possibility,” an American League executive told Stark. “But the thing I wonder about is how high can it go? In everything in life, there’s a breaking point … If you really look at it, I don’t think he’s as good as Trout, but he’s better than Bryce Harper. So I think he’s probably a guy who slots in there in between those two.”
Splitting the difference seems fair, as we hypothesized Tuesday, but it really will all come down to the market. If Betts reaches free agency, and there’s a large contingent of teams lining up to make him an offer, it’s possible the competition drives his price beyond Trout and perhaps in the neighborhood of a half a billion. Betts’ odds are better now, too, as Trout was scheduled to hit the open market in the same year as Betts.
“He’s Hank Aaron,” an agent (who doesn’t represent Betts or Trout) told Stark. “He’s right there with the best players I’ve ever seen. He and Trout are like nothing we’ve seen in this sport. If he hits the market, he’ll explode it.”
One obvious thing to consider and keep in mind: Will the Red Sox lock up Betts to an extension? According to Stark, Boston has made attempts to lock up Betts to a long-term deal, obviously to no avail. Betts is also just one of a handful of players that makes up the club’s core who will be up for extensions in the next year or two.
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