Mookie Betts is a generational talent that any team, especially a large market franchise, should do everything in their power to keep for as long as possible. The Dodgers acted on it, unlike the Red Sox.
Boston has prioritized resetting luxury tax penalties rather than keeping their best player in February, before their final year in free agency. The Dodgers jumped at the risk with an eye for the reward, trading for Betts and pitcher David Price.
“When we did this trade, we did it with more of 2020 in mind,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday. “We appreciated the risk associated with this. But we did it with our eyes wide open and with a commitment from all of us that we were going to do whatever we could to try and keep Mookie here for the rest of his career.
With a 12-year, $ 365 million contract leading Betts through their 39-year season in 2032, the Dodgers may have done just that.
Betts are 27 this season. The extension of his contract will take him through his early years, and well beyond. He does just about everything right on a baseball field. He’s hitting, has power, leads the bases well, is a great defender and has a great conscience on the pitch. And he made a really good impression in his five months with the Dodgers.
“When you make an investment of this magnitude, you’re not just betting on the ability of the player, you are betting on the person as well,” Friedman said. “We couldn’t be more comfortable making this bet on Mookie Betts.”
The highest war, 2015-19
rWAR = Baseball Reference WAR
Betts’ first full season dates back to 2015 with Boston. Since then, the only other player with more wins over substitution is Mike Trout. Besides Trout and Betts, the only other player since 2015 to average 6+ WARS per year is Alex Bregman (in his three full seasons, 2017-19). Nolan Arenado has also averaged 6.3 WAR over the past five years on Baseball-Reference, but an average 5.4 WAR on FanGraphs.
In 2018, Betts had their best season yet, reaching 0.346 / 0.438 / 0.640 with 32 homers, 30 stolen bases and 47 doubles. He topped 10 WARs in both versions, won the American League MVP title, and won a World Series against the Dodgers, helping to win the series with a homer in Game 5.
It was his last game at Dodger Stadium that counted. His next is Thursday night, when the Dodgers open their 2020 season at home against the Giants. And probably several hundred more after that.
“Ever since I’ve been here, people here have made me feel comfortable. You see the talent from top to bottom in the minor leagues, everyone in the front office, from owner to base, everyone is amazing, ”Betts said. “I think this organization is a well-oiled machine.”
This well-oiled machine has won seven straight division titles, one for each full season of the Dodgers owned group. They have done two World Series, but have yet to win that ultimate prize. They have remained competitive, with 91 wins, the low point in the past seven years, while rebuilding the player development system at the same time.
The Dodgers’ farm system was ranked third in baseball this year by Baseball America and MLB.com, with the major league team being the main World Series favorite by several projection systems.
“We’ve talked about it a lot, trying to create a destination where the players who are here don’t want to leave, and the players on the outside look longingly at our organization and want to play here,” Friedman said. “So I was hoping we would make a good impression on Mookie with just the communication and the people that we have, and the culture that was created.”
This impression was clearly made, even if there were obstacles. The rapport made during spring training, including when Betts led a team meeting on one of his first days at camp, was cut short when the coronavirus pandemic ended the season.
Friedman spoke with Betts and his agent about a possible extension during spring training, but those discussions were suspended with everyone in the baseball world. Negotiations resumed last week, with the goal of a contract before opening day, to avoid the distraction of having such talks during the season.
Considering the loss of income in baseball during the pandemic and a season that begins and perhaps ends with no fans in the stands, the free agent market this winter seems impossible to predict. Although Betts was going to be the top prize this winter, predictions for their next deal were likely very different in July compared to March before the sport closed.
“The market wasn’t what worried me. Fair fair value. It was my first thing in my entire career. Fair value, and that’s it, ”Betts said. “Once we get to this point and I like to be somewhere, the game is perfect. “
The Dodgers have recognized this value, and they are blessed to have one of the best baseball players for them for a very long time.