Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

Baseball’s painfully slow offseason finally saw it’s first major piece fall into place Tuesday when Manny Machado agreed to a record 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres.

Soon, Bryce Harper will follow suit by signing what should be an even larger deal.

When the dust finally settles, the focus will turn away from baseball’s newest $300 million men to baseball’s next $300 million players: Mookie Betts and Mike Trout.

Betts has two years left before hitting free agency, but there’s no reason for the Red Sox to let him get close to that mark. The stars have aligned in Boston’s favor to keep their franchise player here for the next decade.

The timing will never be better for these two sides to come to an agreement.

From the Red Sox perspective, the market for Betts is about to be set. Machado’s deal sets a new standard for baseball contracts and will likely be reset slightly by Harper in the coming days. Once Harper puts pen to paper, the Sox will know what they have to offer Betts for a chance to keep him around. Betts is a better player than Harper and he’s a better player than Machado. He will make more money than them. There’s no point in offering him any less.

Why wait? The Red Sox should get a deal done now.

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

If the Red Sox approach Betts with a contract surpassing Harper, Machado, and Giancarlo Stanton (13 years, $325 million), he cannot seriously pass it up, right? With the way the market is trending and with a potential work stoppage in 2021 looming like a dark cloud over baseball, Betts (and any other player for that matter) should look to get their money when its on the table. There’s too much uncertainty in the game right now.

If the Sox offer to make Betts the highest-paid player in the 180-year history of baseball and he turns it down, then the message is clear: he doesn’t want to be here and will never want to be here.

Don’t wait to find that out two years from now. Find it out now. If he makes it clear with his actions that he’s leaving town in 2020, then it’s up to Dave Dombrowski to make the difficult decision to get something for Betts before he bolts.

For the record, I don’t think Betts wants out. Perhaps he’s never been effusive in his praise of Boston, but he’s never once indicated that he wants to play elsewhere, either. We should not confuse his unwillingness to take below market offers from the Red Sox in 2017 (a 5-year, $100 million extension) and 2018 (when Betts won his arbitration case against the team) as a desire to play elsewhere.

This year, the Sox finally offered Betts was he was worth, the most money ever received by a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He took the deal.

The appropriate contract offer will tell the Red Sox all they need to know about where they stand with Betts. If the team offers him what he’s worth, the richest contract in baseball, it’s hard to see him turning that down.

Now is the time to act. Strike before the end of spring training. End any discussion about Betts’ future before it goes any further.

It’s time to pay Mookie Betts.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.