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Red Sox, Mookie Betts likely heading to arbitration hearing

The Red Sox avoided arbitration with all but one player

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Three Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Friday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange their figures for a potential arbitration hearing, which also means it was the day that many teams and players avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal. The Red Sox had a whopping ten players who still hadn’t agreed to a deal heading into yesterday, but they ended up agreeing to a deal with nine of them. That leaves one player whose salary is still up for grabs next year. Unfortunately, it’s the best player on the team in Mookie Betts.

According to reports, the two sides are fairly far apart with their proposed 2018 salaries, with the team offering $7.5 million and Betts asking for $10.5 million. It seems that right now the two sides will indeed be going to an arbitration hearing to sort this out.

This obviously is not ideal, as you never want to go in front of a panel of arbiters to explain why your young superstar does not deserve the money he wants. That being said, I think some are overstating the impact here. Betts and his agent surely know this is part of the game, and this shouldn’t stop the Red Sox from being willing to pay what it takes to retain him long-term when the time comes. This would really be an issue if the team were taking him to trial over a small difference, but the three million dollar gap is a fairly significant one in this kind of process. Remember, the team also gave Betts a relatively large raise in his final pre-arbitration year, paying him $950,000 for 2017. Obviously that’s way less than he’s worth, but many teams wouldn’t give out that much of a raise when they don’t have to.

What this does mean, though, is that it’s going to be just as hard as everyone expected it would be to get Betts to agree to a long-term extension before he is able to hit the open market. The star outfielder clearly has his mind set on making as much money as possible, which is his right and probably good for the game. Even just keeping an eye on this process, Betts stands to make or lose a lot of money over the next few years depending on how this arbitration hearing goes. Remember, this is his first year in arbitration so this will determine the baseline for his salary for the next few years. We’d all prefer the two sides avoided a trial — and it’s important to remember that is still possible — but this is not an unsalvageable situation by any means.

The good news is that deals have been agreed upon for everyone except Mookie Betts. Tim Britton has the rundown of the deals agreed to for each of the other arbitration-eligible players.

All in all, the Red Sox saved just a shade over $1 million with this group compared to their projected earnings on MLB Trade Rumors.