Mookie Betts gets arbitration record $27M contract with Red Sox

If you needed more proof that Mookie Betts is going to get P-A-I-D when he hits free agency after next season, consider the news Friday about his final year of arbitration with the Boston Red Sox.

Betts and the Sox agreed to an arbitration record $27 million contract for 2020, according to multiple reports. The number surpasses Nolan Arenado’s previous high of $26 million. It’s a $7 million raise for Betts and comes with a suite on the road, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

This is one of those records that seems to get set anew every year. Arenado set the mark last season. Before that, it was Josh Donaldson getting $23 million from the Blue Jays for 2018.

Because of the way MLB’s arbitration system works, these record-setting contracts almost always happen in a player’s final year before hitting free agency and serve as a preview of the bidding war to come the following year.

In Betts’ case, there’s another wrinkle — he’s also the biggest trade chip in the league right now. The Red Sox are looking to clear salary heading into 2020, and with a team that doesn’t look ready to compete with the New York Yankees in the AL East, the Sox may ship off their biggest star to save that $27 million.

Betts, 27, was the 2018 AL MVP during Boston’s World Series run. The Dodgers seem to be the landing spot mentioned most often for Betts, but he could help a number of teams. And now, there’s cost certainty for 2020, so teams on both sides of a potential deal know specifically what they’re dealing with.

Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts has set a record for an arbitration contract in MLB. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts has set a record for an arbitration contract in MLB. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Kris Bryant gets big raise while grievance ruling looms

Another notable name in the news Friday as MLB’s arbitration numbers came rolling in: Kris Bryant, whose status is also more interesting because he has a grievance filed against the Chicago Cubs for manipulating his service time to delay free agency.

In the immediate, Bryant and the Cubs agreed to an $18.6 million deal for 2020, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. That is a $5.7 million raise from last year for Bryant.

What both sides are really waiting for is a ruling in the grievance. Bryant is set to be a free agent in 2022, but if it’s ruled that the Cubs manipulated his service time, it’s conceivable that Bryant could hit free agency a year earlier.

That matters for the same reason as Betts — Bryant has been mentioned in trade talks this winter. Two years of Bryant is worth a lot more in a trade than one.

The Cubs reportedly have been putting off some offseason moves until they figure out Bryant’s status for the future. Now we know how much money he’ll make in 2020, but the rest is still up in the air.

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