John Tomase

Brayan Bello contract extension is a rare win for Red Sox

Boston has had trouble retaining homegrown talent in recent years.

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For one day, let's put aside our annoyance at the inability of the Red Sox to multitask – "We can't sign free agents until our prospects get here!" – and commend them for doing something right and reportedly nearing a contract extension with young right-hander Brayan Bello.

There was once a time when the Red Sox locked up their young stars as a matter of course, from Dustin Pedroia to Jon Lester to Xander Bogaerts.

Then came Mookie Betts and the misreading of his long-term market. By the time the Red Sox got around to offering him real money, he was too close to free agency, so they traded him to the Dodgers before he could walk for nothing. They're living with the consequences, with only Connor Wong to show for the former MVP.

Bello will never be as valuable as Betts, but considering how difficult it has been for the Red Sox even to acquire, let alone develop, young starting pitching, the more certainty in the rotation the better.

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that the Red Sox are in advanced talks with Bello on an extension that would keep him in uniform beyond 2028 and buy out at least one year of free agency. A deal likely would fall between the six years and $75 million the Braves gave ace Spencer Strider, and the six years, $53 million Hunter Greene received from the Reds. Both were extended at similarly early stages of their careers.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m. ET): Bello and the Red Sox have agreed to a six-year, $55 million contract extension, ESPN's Kiley McDaniel reports.

The Athletic's Tim Britton, who has developed a knack for predicting such things, pegs a Bello extension at six years and $48 million, but I'm going a smidge higher because the Red Sox are desperate to get something, anything, done -- with someone, anyone -- and that gives Bello leverage.

Though his stats through two seasons don't scream No. 1 starter (14-19, 4.37 ERA), Bello has the potential to take a leap, posting early numbers that mirror former All-Stars with Red Sox ties like Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha.

Like Eovaldi, in particular, Bello's arsenal (power sinker, changeup) suggests he should eventually start striking out more than 20 percent of hitters, which is just a tick below league average. While it's possible to succeed in today's game without high strikeout rates, the ceiling on the Kyle Gibsons and Miles Mikolases of the world is simply lower than that of, say, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

There's more to earning an extension than numbers, and any long-term commitment must factor non-quantifiable considerations as well. Fortunately, Bello possesses a steely confidence that suggests he'll be able to handle the pressure of fronting a rotation. He pitches with personality and without fear; there's a reason he's a favorite of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who hosts him for workouts every winter in the Dominican.

Locking up Bello won't do anything to help the 2024 Red Sox, especially in the wake of Lucas Giolito's potentially season-ending elbow injury. But at least it provides a glimpse of who will be here down the road when maybe the Red Sox are good again.

Now get Triston Casas done, and then hope that Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Kyle Teel justify the hype, and perhaps someday there's a path out of last place.

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