The Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts to chase a 2020 World Series. Before that, Betts spurned extension efforts by the Red Sox, making the 2020 season a critical platform year. There’s a lot at stake for both parties in the pandemic-shaped campaign.
Betts, who is finally back in a Dodgers uniform and nearing a potential regular season debut, discussed the situation with media members including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The 27-year-old outfielder indicated that his focus is on more immediate concerns rather than the past or the future.
Betts spoke about the two overarching issues that have dominated the national discourse since baseball hit pause in March. He indicated that he is focused right now on health and safety matters as camp gets underway. While he expressed some uncertainty as to whether the league can manage a return to play in the midst of the spread of the coronavirus, Betts says it’s a matter that’s ultimately out of his hands.
The superstar had a different take on the social justice issues he also discussed. Betts spoke of a personal responsibility to “bring baseball into Black communities.” He also indicated displeasure with MLB’s handling of the protests that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death. “I think baseball did not do a good job of that,” said Betts, “but I think voices were heard and that’s the main thing, that we get our voices heard and to make some changes.”
With Betts focused on gearing up to play in 2020, he says he’s not worried about contractual matters. “Free agency is on the back burner,” he says. While it’s likely MLB teams will be keeping a tighter hold on their wallets this winter, Betts doesn’t seem to be having second thoughts on his decision not to take what the Red Sox offered him in prior contract talks.
“I don’t regret turning that [extension offer] down,” says Betts. “Once I make a decision, I don’t go back and question myself. So I don’t worry about that. The market will be what the market is. We’ll just kind of cross that bridge when we get there.”
While Betts is quite sensibly not thinking about dollars and cents at the moment, it’s hard not to ponder his future here at MLBTR. We’ll see what the truncated 2020 season holds, but it’s quite likely that Betts will reach the open market as the best free agent position player in recent memory. Setting aside intervening financial uncertainties, it would stand to reason that Betts could top Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330MM pact and Mike Trout’s ten-year, $360MM extension (reached when he was two years from free agency). That’s all the more true given the boosted earnings we saw this past winter, when the Yankees promised $324MM to Gerrit Cole, a pitcher who was a full year older than Betts will be when he hits free agency.
Just how the market shapes up is impossible to say at this point. The near-term financial outlook is sure to depend on what kind of season MLB is able to pull off in the midst of a pandemic.