13 Red Sox players were eligible for arbitration going into the 2018 season. 12 of them signed deals before yesterday's arbitration hearing deadline; one did not. So where does the team stand with it's All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts?
Before any of us shed a tear for Mookie, make no mistake he'll be getting a healthy bump in pay. Last year, Betts made roughly $1 million. In 2018, depending on the outcome of the negotiations, Betts will make anywhere between $6-$10 million. With both sides still far a part, talks broke down late yesterday, and an arbitration hearing will be scheduled.
There's still a chance both sides can avoid the showdown. In case you haven't heard, these hearings can get downright nasty. Want to know what a team really thinks of a player? Sit back and listen to the arguments they make against paying out money they think should be spent elsewhere.
So how did we get to this point? Mookie's 2017 drop in numbers surely has a lot to do with it. In 2016, Betts simply crushed it, hitting .319 and showing an unexpected power ripping 30 plus home runs. He finished second in the MVP voting only to megastar Mike Trout. That's pretty good company to say the least.
However, Betts' offense, without question, took a step back last year. His average plunged into the .260's and his home run numbers dropped to 24. But the year wasn't all bad. His efforts in right field earned him his first ever Gold Glove, and his WAR ranked 13th in all of Major League Baseball.
The arguments both sides will make are obvious. Mookie wants his employer to focus on his 2016 stats and his defense, and the Red Sox will argue that Mookie regressed at the plate and have concerns about his ability to bounce back. It certainly makes for a rather uncomfortable day in front of the arbitration panel.
The true impact of arbitration hearings isn't felt in the present. It's down the road where the real damage is done. I'd love to see Mookie roaming right or center field at Friendly Fenway for his entire career, but signing him to a long term deal won't be easy under the best of circumstances. It would be human nature for Betts to sour on staying in Boston if he has to sit through a hearing where his bosses highlight his weaknesses and are debating why he should be paid less.
In the end, Mookie will probably land in the $8 million ballpark for the year. There are countless cases where both sides settle their dispute even minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin. That could still happen in the Mookie saga. Let's hope both sides will meet in the middle and start looking at a long term deal that will keep the "MOOKIE" chants in Boston for many years to come.