Sam Kennedy: ‘Very hard’ to see Mookie Betts sign long-term with Dodgers

Red Sox Sam Kennedy
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Red Sox president Sam Kennedy expressed disappointment after former Red Sox outfielder and current Dodger Mookie Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension on Wednesday. Per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe, Kennedy said, “I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say a sense of disappointment and maybe closure and finality to it.” He added, “It’s obviously very hard to see Mookie Betts sign a long-term deal somewhere else.”

With just a season separating Betts from free agency, the Red Sox traded him to Los Angeles along with starter David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. The Red Sox were laser-focused on getting their payroll below the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold, as they had been in the penalty for two consecutive seasons. A third consecutive season would have exacerbated those penalties. Offloading Betts and his $27 million salary, as well as Price’s $31 million annually, got them well below the CBT threshold.

Betts, 27, helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series and won the 2018 AL MVP Award. Over parts of six seasons, he has hit .301/.374/.519 with 139 home runs, 470 RBI, 613 runs scored, and 126 stolen bases across 3,629 plate appearances. He has been worth 41.8 Wins Above Replacement over his career, an average of nearly 7 WAR each season, per Baseball Reference.

The Red Sox made their decision on Betts pretty much right after the 2018 World Series. They never really attempted to engage Betts in contract extension talks. Kennedy repeatedly tried to soften the blow of losing Betts, saying last September that it would be “difficult” for the team to retain both J.D. Martinez and Betts.

It would be one thing to have made a serious effort to keep Betts in Boston, only to see him turn the Red Sox down and force the club’s hand in trading him. But the ball was always in Boston’s court. The Dodgers paid to retain elite talent; the Red Sox chose not to.