I hope you weren’t planning on having a super happy Wednesday. The baseball world appears to be heading towards its first major transaction since the transaction freeze was lifted — that is, if you don’t count the Red Sox acquiring Dylan Covey — and it includes a very familiar name. According to rumors swirling around the interwebs, first brought up by WEEI’s Lou Merloni, Mookie Betts is nearing a big extension with the Dodgers.
So, yeah. There’s a lot to unpack here as a Red Sox fan, and I think the immediate reaction for a lot of us is a mix of anger and sadness. The direction of that anger and sadness is different for some people — some of us are pissed off at ownership for letting him walk instead of offering him a big deal themselves, others are unhappy with Betts himself for apparently signing this deal after always saying he was going to test free agency. I’m not super interested in relitigating that discussion because, well, I’ve had it enough times for one lifetime.
I will say a few things, though. One is that I am also unhappy, and I’m not even really sure why. I certainly didn’t think it was realistic that Betts was going to re-sign in Boston even if he did hit free agency. Athletes just so very rarely go back to the team that traded them away. And so if he wasn’t going to be in Boston, it should make me happy that he is as far away as possible on the other coast in the other league. Right? I guess the tiny, impossible chance that he was going to come back was enough for me, and now that’s gone.
As for Betts himself and this deal, it would appear that it is going to be for around ten years and $350 million. There’s a few things to point out here. One, if the Red Sox didn’t offer this they should be ashamed of themselves. This is the minimum deal Betts should have been considering before he was traded. Which brings me to the next point, which is that I don’t think he takes this even if it’s offered to him by the Red Sox. (I think they should have offered him more, as I’m sure you know, but again I’m not interested in relitigating that argument again.)
That’s not because I think he was dead-set against playing in Boston. I don’t believe that to be the case. Rather, it’s obvious the pandemic changed everything with the market. Think about how much things have changed for Betts in the last few months. When he was first traded, it looked like he’d be able to pad his resumé on the best team in baseball, maybe make another championship run and set himself up for a $400 million deal. Now, he is going into the most depressed free agent period we can remember, and that’s with the idea that the postseason will be played. If baseball has to shut down again in October, the market will be even worse.
I think all of that has to play into the calculus for Betts here. My assumption was that he was going to take a one-year deal this winter, probably back with LA but the location was less important, and then try to set himself up for a big deal the next year. There are multiple problems with that strategy too, though. For one, he’s a year older. On top of that, we don’t know what the world looks like next year, either. We hope it’s better, but can we really be sure? And on top of all that, there is a massive labor dispute coming with a possible lockout. That is also not a free agent environment you want to put yourself in. With all of that in mind, it makes total sense to sign an extension even after declaring for years you were going to hit free agency. This is the very definition of an unforeseen change in the landscape.
So, yeah, I’m upset because the best Red Sox player I’ve ever seen isn’t coming back, even though I knew he was never coming back. It’s like when an ex you know you’re not getting back together with gets engaged. You knew that was off the table for you anyway, but it still hurts. But Mookie is not an ex. He’s a professional baseball player who entertained me for years, and I’m happy he’s getting the money he deserves. It just should have been here.
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