When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded to Mookie Betts in February, they were only guaranteed to have the 2018 AHL MVP for only one year.
WEEI’s Lou Merloni was the first to tease that the Dodgers and Betts were getting closer to a long-term contract extension on Wednesday. Ultimately, ESPN’s Jeff Passan made the final 12-year and $ 365 million terms on top of what Betts is doing this season.
The Dodgers then announced the deal:
Los Angeles Dodgers @Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have announced that they have signed outfielder Mookie Betts to a 12-year contract until the 2032 season.
Winslow Townson / Associated Press
Because Mike Trout’s $ 426.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels technically only included $ 360 million in new money, Betts’ new deal is the largest in Major League history. League Baseball.
For the man himself, this is a major victory after years of betting on himself.
The 27-year-old right fielder first broke into the Boston Red Sox in 2014, and by the end of 2017 he had two All-Star nods, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger to his last name. According to Joel Sherman of New York PostIt was after 17 that the Red Sox approached Betts with an eight-year, $ 200 million contract offer.
Rather than accept it, he turned it down and upped his value to astronomical levels with an MVP-winning season in 2018 that saw 1,078 OPS, 32 home runs, 30 bases stolen, 10.6 rWAR and, finally, a World Series Ring.
According to Merloni, the Red Sox have made yet another attempt to extend Betts after their triumphant 2018 season. But while their offer was in the range of $ 300 million, he was looking for more than $ 420 million.
Although Betts resigned in 2019, he persisted as an All-Star, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger. In January of this year, he broke an unsurprisingly record by earning a salary of $ 27 million for his final season of officiating eligibility.
A month later, Boston sent Betts (and ace David Price, who has since opted out of 2020) to the Dodgers. Whether the Red Sox were primarily driven by luxury tax considerations, Betts’ pending free agency, or a clear indication that they would not sign an extension on their terms, their move has generally been ridiculed as sheer cynicism.
Gregory Bull / Associated press
The equation began to change when the coronavirus pandemic began to deteriorate in the 2020 season, raising questions as to whether Betts would play even a single game for the Dodgers.
Even after MLB announced a shortened 60-game season for 2020, another question arose: In light of the larger financial blow to the league, had its hopes of making a deal to its liking gone up in smoke? ?
Obviously no. And frankly no one should be as well surprised.
The fact that the Dodgers traded for Betts – who, in addition to absorbing all of his wages and most of Price’s remaining wages, required giving up former prospect Alex Verdugo and current top prospect Jeter Downs – reflected their commitment to win the World Cup 2020. Series.
Although the Dodgers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and won seven National League West titles since 2013, the club’s World Series drought still extends to 1988. And although they have at least reached the World Series in 2017 and 2018, last year ended with a demoralizing outing in the first round of the playoffs.
Going back to the Fall Classic, Betts was the best player the Dodgers could have added for 2020. He’s the best defensive right fielder in the sport, and in a normal year he’s good for over .900 OPS and 25 circuits and flies each. Hence how his 39.5 rWAR since 2015 only trails Trout.
Between Betts and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers start this season with the best pair of teammates in all of baseball. Combined with other spinoffs from last year’s 106-winning squad and other new additions like Alex Wood and Blake Treinen, the Dodgers are now the favorites to win an elusive championship.
However, even better than the potential of one championship is that of multiple championships.
At least in the short term, the Dodgers were only going to be able to pursue the latter goal if they found a way to expand Betts. And while this year will feature 60% fewer games and potentially 100% less revenue for all teams, things like that have never really dashed that hope.
On the one hand, these are the Dodgers we are talking about. Even if they take an L on their bottom line for 2020, they can envision a future that includes a few hundred million dollars a year in local television income, as well as consistently high attendance at Dodger Stadium when (fingers crossed) the pandemic is abating.
On the other hand, the Dodgers have carefully planned their future. Before their deal with Betts, their books were going to be reduced to zero dollars guaranteed from 2023.
As such, the Betts extension likely won’t be the Dodgers’ last seismic move for a while. If they also want to extend Bellinger and aspiring ace Walker Buehler, they can. And even then, they would still have money to equip their list with whatever they might need.
From a broader perspective, Betts’ contract is an interesting juxtaposition with the larger financial situation of the league.
Some owners (see here and here) would have fans believe that baseball is not a very profitable business, even at the best of times. In these less than best times, MLB has projected multibillion losses for 2020. As a result, the outlook for the free agent class this winter has been bleak.
Perhaps all of this only hardened the Dodgers’ resolve to expand Betts, as they might have felt a chance to flex muscles that no one else will flex in the near future. Or it could be that the league’s financial situation is not as dire as it has been reported and therefore the club felt they needed to act now rather than risk losing Betts as a free agent.
Either way, the Dodgers have made a deal they won’t soon regret.
Statistics provided by Baseball Reference.