Would $1M Home Run Derby bonus sway Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez to participate?

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston

Would $1M Home Run Derby bonus sway Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez to participate? originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

With a new collective bargaining agreement looming in December 2021, Major League Baseball is doing some tinkering.

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MLB and the MLB Players Association have agreed to a few rule changes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported late Wednesday night. In 2019, you'll see a single July 31 trade deadline -- no more August deals and waiver claims -- a new "Election Day" voting process for the MLB All-Star Game and a $1 million bonus for the Home Run Derby winner, per Passan.

In 2020, we'll reportedly get a three-batter minimum for each pitcher and a roster expansion from 25 to 26 players.

While the three-batter minimum will directly impact game play, most of these changes are off-field tweaks in the early stages of CBA negotiation. But the $1 million bonus for the derby winner is notable considering how outspoken the Boston Red Sox's top two sluggers have been against the competition.

J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts clubbed a combined 75 home runs in 2018 (43 for Martinez; 32 for Betts) but both declined to participate in last year's Derby. In fact, they slammed the door shut.

Here's Betts last May about the prospect of participating, via The Boston Globe

"Hell no. I'm not that kind of hitter."

And here's Martinez:

"MLB didn't want me (in 2015). I figured I'd have the option of doing it and they said no. They had other guys they wanted, all these young guys. I was like, 'Forget it. I'll never do it.' "

Suffice it to say these guys are anti-Derby. (Betts even suggested scrapping the contest altogether later in the season.)

They're not the only ones, either; many players fear messing up their swing by training for and participating in a glorified fly ball contest. That's likely part of the logic of MLB dangling a $1 million carrot -- nearly double the league's annual minimum salary -- to coax the game's biggest stars into signing up.

Would Betts or Martinez take the bait if asked to participate in 2019? Their recent comments and past history (the Red Sox haven't had a Derby participant since David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in 2011) suggests they won't, and it's not like either player will be strapped for cash now or in the near future. But at the very least, they may weigh their options a bit more carefully.

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