Bryce Harper has ended his 18-week free agency drama by signing a record-setting, 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, as The Inquisitr reported. Now, the Boston Red Sox must act quickly to retain their star outfielder Mookie Betts — the 2018 American League MVP — who is likely to command at least $400 million when he hits the open market after the 2020 season, according to one veteran Boston baseball writer.
“It’s now or probably never,” wrote longtime Boston Herald columnist Michael Silverman. “For the Red Sox and their fans who want Betts to stay in Boston forever and ever, Thursday’s signing of Harper does not help their case much.”
Betts has put up significantly better production numbers than Harper. In 2018, Betts led the Major Leagues in the WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) statistic, which has become a standard for evaluating overall player performance. In 2018, Betts recorded a 10.8 WAR, according to Fangraphs, while Harper’s number was only 3.5. In Harper’s best year, his MVP season of 2015, his WAR came in at 9.3.
Since 2015, per Fangraphs, Betts ranks second in WAR — only losing out to 2020’s other top prospective free agent, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Harper ranks 11th in the WAR statistic since 2015, at 20.6, when compared to 28.7 for Betts and 36.6 for Trout.
“We’re talking money (for Betts) that would shatter both the Harper and (Manny) Machado deals,” Silverman wrote. He added that a 10-year contract totaling at least $400 million would not “surprise” anyone in baseball when it comes to Betts’ next deal, whether that’s with the Red Sox or another team.
The Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado — the 10th-ranked overall player in terms of WAR (20.9) since 2015 — signed an eight-year extension with his team on Tuesday, valued at $32.5 million per year, per ESPN. But according to Silverman, Betts has given no indication that he is interested in inking an extension with the Red Sox, one that would keep him off of the 2020 free agent market.
But Betts has also said that the deals signed by Harper and Machado will not necessarily serve as his benchmark for what he will seek in his next contract. “We’re all different players. We all have different things that are important,” Betts told The Boston Globe on Thursday, after learning of Harper’s deal. “I’ll just continue to worry about what’s going on now.”
Predicting the market two years from now also presents a difficult task, making the dollar amount of Betts’ next deal also tough to forecast, according to New England Sports Network commentator Mike Cole.
“There’s just so much uncertainty in baseball’s economic landscape,” Cole wrote on Friday. “What does this mean for the Red Sox? They’d be well-suited to at least try to open extension talks with the reigning American League MVP.”