Before taking on the Tampa Bay Rays in the first of a pivotal 14-game stretch for the Red Sox’ season on Monday, Mookie Betts opened up a bit about his impending free agency.
Betts, set to become a free agent for the first time following the 2020 season, expressed his desire in wanting to hit the open market, but defended his reasoning for wanting to do so.
“I’ve loved it here,” the reigning American League MVP told reporters Monday. “I love the front office, my teammates, coaches. Everybody. It’s been nothing but amazing here. Just because you go to free agency doesn’t mean you don’t want to be somewhere. It’s just a part of the business.”
This comes amid speculation that Betts would prefer to play in a different market due to a certain disdain for Boston, but the 26-year-old shut that right down, saying that, “I’ve always said I loved it here. It’s been amazing to me, my family. It’s … like a home to me. It’s been all I know. And just because you exercise something in the business, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it.”
There also remains the distinct possibility that Betts could be dealt before the July 31st trade deadline depending on how the next week-or-so goes for Boston, given the fact he can become a free agent in just over a year.
“I think that’s a part of it,” Betts said regarding being traded. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I have to go out and put on my uniform every day. And if that time comes, that time comes. But right now I’m here, and I’m enjoying my time here. It’s above my pay grade.”
What’s fascinating to me is how some Red Sox fans seem fine with letting the club deal Betts away for prospects. Sure, getting something in return is better than getting nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick if he does leave via free agency, but it’s not like replacing a top-five talent is easy to do.
There’s no sure thing that any of the prospects the Sox would acquire in this scenario would pan out to be an everyday player in the majors, let alone one of Betts’ caliber.
At the end of the day, the Red Sox are the Red Sox. If Betts wants to test the market and go where he feels the most desired, then principal owner John Henry and co. should be ready to pay their man.
Through 99 games this season, Betts is slashing .282/.396/.479 with 15 home runs, 47 RBI, and a league-leading 89 runs scored.
Since the start of July, the Tennessee native has posted an impressive .382/.463/.603 slash line to go along with two homers, 10 RBI, and 23 runs scored over his last 17 games played.
It’s not often a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate falls into your lap in the fifth round of a amateur draft. The Red Sox should do their part to keep Betts in Boston for the rest of his playing career and beyond.