Mookie Betts hasn’t played an official game for the Los Angeles Dodgers yet, but he’s committing to the team for the long haul. Betts agreed to a massive 12-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers, Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown confirmed.
The move comes as a surprise as Betts, 27, was set to be a free agent at the end of the season. Had he played out the 2020 season with the Dodgers, Betts would have hit the market, where 30 teams — as opposed to one — could have offered him deals. The team announced the length of the deal Wednesday afternoon.
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they have signed outfielder Mookie Betts to a 12-year contract through the 2032 season.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 22, 2020
But comfort matters too. While Betts hasn’t played a regular season game with the Dodgers, he’s spent enough time with the team to determine whether signing long-term with the Dodgers is a good idea. It obviously doesn’t hurt that $365 million is a ton of money.
Where does this deal rank in baseball history?
Betts’ deal with the Dodgers weighs in as the second-largest contract in baseball history by total value. Fittingly, it trails only Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Betts has been viewed in recent seasons by popular consensus and Wins Above Replacement calculations as the clear second-best player in the game, behind only Trout.
The deal carries an average annual value of just over $30.4 million. Among currently active contracts, that only ranks 11th. It is, for example, smaller on a yearly basis than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw’s 3-year, $93 million deal.
The Boston Red Sox blew their chance
With the move, Boston Red Sox fans have to be wondering whether things would be different had Betts remained with the team. The Red Sox traded Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February in exchange for Alex Verdugo and others. It was a cost-cutting move, as owner John Henry stated in September he wanted to get the team below the competitive balance tax line in 2020. Trading Betts, who will make $27 million in 2020, was a quick and easy way to accomplish that goal. With the deal, the Red Sox admitted an extension with Betts was unlikely, though some fans held out hope Betts would consider returning to Boston once he hit the market.
Betts never openly opposed signing a long-term deal with the Red Sox, but stated multiple times he wanted to be paid fairly. The Red Sox reportedly offered Betts a $300 million deal following the 2018 season. Betts turned down that deal. Reports at the time suggested Betts was seeking a deal around $400 million. While Betts’ new deal doesn’t exceed $400 million, the Dodgers still offered Betts more money than the Red Sox.
Did the pandemic affect Mookie Betts’ new deal?
If Betts was willing to hold out for $400 million in 2018, why did he sign a lesser deal now? It’s possible the coronavirus pandemic played a role in Betts’ decision. With revenue expected to take a massive hit in 2020, Betts may have worried about the state of the free agent market in the offseason. Would teams still pony up massive offers?
Or would they use the pandemic to offer Betts below-market deals? Betts didn’t want to find out, and settled for the $365 million.
What does this mean for the Dodgers?
While this deal is a lot of money, Betts is the type of player you spend to keep around. At 27, Betts still has a few years left of elite production before age-related decline kicks in. He and Cody Bellinger will give opposing pitchers nightmares for years to come.
The move also shows Dodgers fans the team is committed to putting a competitive team on the field for years to come. Despite all the team’s success the past couple seasons, the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series. The Betts trade signaled the team desperately wants to break that streak. The extension shows the team didn’t view the Betts acquisition as a “Last Dance” situation. They want Betts to help them contend for multiple titles over the next decade.
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