By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
OK, so the headline is admittedly click bait. But hear me out.
In what has to be considered at least somewhat stunning, Major League Baseball and the baseball players union (the dreaded MLBPA) reportedly came to an agreement last night on financial terms during the suspension of play caused by the current global pandemic. Under the terms, any and all major league players who would have been free agents at the end of this season will continue to have that right, which means players like Mookie Betts will be on the open market even if the entire season is canceled.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers, that means a very stark reality: after giving up a handful of prospects to the Red Sox for Betts, the Dodgers could lose Betts to free agency without him ever playing a single game for them.
So how does this involve the Red Sox in the longer term? In a story by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, Shaikin offered a very realistic scenario in which an entire season lost to the pandemic could result in a depressed free agent market. If that’s the case, Betts may be forced to settle for just a one-year deal – or a long-term deal for considerably less money than he wanted before.
Translation: the pandemic and its effects would have major free agency ramifications for a player who has been intent on going to the market from seemingly the day he set foot in the big leagues. And while the likelihood is that Betts would choose a one-year contract and hit the market when all economies are healthier – the fall of 2021, for example – Betts would then be 29 instead of 28, which changes the landscape at least a little.
Last spring – when Betts was 26 going on 27 – the Red Sox offered him a 10-year, $290 million contract and the player countered with a 12-year, $420 million proposal. That gap ultimately prompted the team to trade him. But if Betts truly loved Boston – as he has claimed – then would the door be open for a possible return to the Red Sox on terms closer to what the team had envisioned?
It’s at least something worth considering.