Brayan Bello's Extension Is Sign of the New Red Sox Way

Aug 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brayan Bello (66) pitches
Aug 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brayan Bello (66) pitches / Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox and 24-year-old starter Brayan Bello reached an agreement on a six-year, $55 million contract extension with an additional seventh-year club option for $21 million.

On the surface, Bello's extension appears mundane, but upon closer inspection it is an intriguing microcosm of the new "Red Sox Way". This philosophy is centered around acquiring, developing, and retaining young talent at a club-controlled cost, a philosophy that typically simultaneously entails offloading veteran, higher-priced talent. Regardless of how Boston fans feel about the strategy, at least the front office appears to have a formulated plan and are executing said plan by paying up and retaining Bello. Prior to this news, it was reasonable for Red Sox Nation to wonder if the club had any sense of direction and if John Henry's credit card was continuously being declined.

The new Red Sox Way can be frustrating because it is presumably incentivized by cost-cutting measures and ownership-mandated budgets, and because Boston fans have witnessed general managers delicately toe the line between acquiring premier big league talent and developing a resourceful farm system. The poster child for this harmony was former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, while Dave Dombrowski never met a prospect that he wasn't willing to trade and Chaim Bloom hoarded prospects like Covid-era toilet paper.

The roots of the new Red Sox Way can perhaps be traced back to the trade of Mookie Betts in Feb. 2020, when Boston sent the superstar to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three prospects after disastrously erroneously assessing Betts' market during contract negotiations. Connor Wong is the only prospect from the trade remaining in the Red Sox organization, and these are the types of trades that kids will read about in ten years and laugh out loud at.

The return for Betts was a pivotal inflection point because the return demonstrated Boston's intention on stockpiling young talent and lack of interest in established MLB talent, which they assuredly could have procured in exchange Betts. To Bloom's credit, he achieved this objective successfully. When he inherited the farm system in 2019, Boston's pipeline ranked dead last in baseball. Fast-forward this pre-season, and Boston's farm system ranks second in the MLB, headlined by 21-year-old shortstop Marcelo Mayer (15th overall prospect), 19-year-old outfielder Roman Anthony (24th), and 22-year-old catcher Kyle Teel (40th). All three were drafted by Bloom.

Bello's extension is the next step of the acquire, develop, retain process, as he is now slated to be in a Sox uniform until possibly the end of the decade. Contract extension talks have also swirled around 24-year-old first baseman Triston Casas, who finished third in the 2023 Rookie of the Year voting.

Bello signed with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent when he was 18 years old and quickly ascended Boston's prospect rankings and appeared in the 2021 All-Star Futures Games, the same season in which he was tabbed as the organization's minor league Starting Pitcher of the Year.

The approach that Boston's front office adopted with Bello is representative of a larger trend within Major League Baseball. More front offices have shown a willingness to extend young players with significant team control remaining on their contracts. One prominent example of this tactic was the Atlanta Braves' eight-year, $72 million contract extension with Michael Harris II in 2022. When the Braves and Harris came to that agreement, the young outfielder only had 114 MLB games under his belt and six years of club control remaining. This past December, the Milwaukee Brewers sent shockwaves through the MLB landscape when they signed prized prospect Jackson Chourio to an 8-year, $82 million extension. The second-highest ranked prospect in baseball, Chourio has only six career games in Triple-A and hasn't even made his MLB debut yet.

These arrangements can be mutually beneficial. From the team's perspective, they are undoubtedly overpaying in the player's pre-arbitration and arbitration years, but receiving a discount in the latter years. In the case of Bello specifically, his deal covers his two remaining pre-arbitration years (2024-25), three arbitration years (2026-28), and up to two free agent seasons if the Red Sox exercise his seventh-year option (2029-30).

If this new "Red Sox Way" is real, Triston Casas, you're up next.

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