When Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez announced on Monday that he would stay with the team rather than become a free agent, keeping his $23.75 million salary on the books for 2020, the decision appeared to seal the fate of 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts, according to an ESPN report.
But one top Major League Baseball "insider" correspondent now says that Betts may remain with the Red Sox for one final season, as the club that has won four World Series titles since 2004 — including the 2018 championship — goes all out to grab another championship trophy.
The Red Sox owners said that they dismissed President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski late in the season because he disagreed with them over the need to cut the team's payroll, according to a New York Post report.
As a result, new top baseball operations official Chaim Bloom appeared to be left with little choice but to trade Betts, after Martinez decided to spend at least one more season in Boston. Betts, a 27-year-old four-time All Star, will become a free agent following the 2020 season. If he hits the open market, as he has given every indication that he will, Betts is expected to command a contract that could reach a total value of $400 million.
Betts has yet to sign a new contract with the Red Sox for 2020, but he is expected to earn in the neighborhood of $27 million for his final season before free agency. Trading Betts would free up payroll space, helping the Red Sox bring their player salary expenditures below the $208 million luxury tax cutoff. Their prospective payroll for 2020 now stands at approximately $215 million, tops in baseball.
Even with those financial factors, MLB "insider" Jon Heyman said on Wednesday that he did not expect Bloom and the Red Sox to cut ties with Betts until after the 2020 campaign, as quoted by Boston's WEEI.
"I'm here to tell you today that I'm still going to be surprised if they trade Mookie Betts," Heyman said on his Big Time Baseball program. "I think they'll try to win it this year."
Heyman added that trading a player of Betts' caliber with just one year remaining on his contract would not net the Red Sox "even 50 cents on the dollar."
"I'm going to anticipate that we're going to hear a lot of talk on Mookie Betts," Heyman concluded. "They're going to keep him."
Betts has led the AL in runs scored for two straight years. He has also won four consecutive Gold Glove awards for his defense in right field.