Star outfielder Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finalizing a massive 13-year deal worth more than $380 million that would keep the former American League MVP from reaching free agency this winter, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
The deal, which could be agreed upon as soon as Wednesday, would include the 2020 season, sources told ESPN.
The Dodgers acquired the 27-year-old Betts from the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster trade over the winter, giving up outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop prospect Jeter Downs with a guarantee of only one year — and the hope that he would consider re-signing before hitting the open market.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Betts was expected to receive a deal worth at least $300 million. Speculation that the game’s unclear financial future would muddy Betts’ windfall will not prove true.
Betts is considered one of the best all-around players in baseball — an elite leadoff hitter with power, speed and four Gold Gloves in right field. He capped his championship-winning 2018 season with an MVP award and followed it last year by hitting .295/.391/.524.
The Dodgers, with an unmatched young core and payroll flexibility to match, were the ideal destination for him. The team currently has no financial commitments beyond the 2022 season, though reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger is due to hit free agency after 2023 and frontline starter Walker Buehler following the 2024 season.
Among Betts, Bellinger, Buehler, shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Will Smith and pitcher Dustin May, the Dodgers are primed to maintain their position as one of the game’s elite teams. They have won seven consecutive NL West titles and lost two World Series, to the Houston Astros in 2017 and to Betts’ Red Sox in 2018.
In Boston, Betts went from a fifth-round pick taken as a second baseman out of a Nashville high school to a star who transitioned to outfield in his third season and finished as runner-up in the MVP race. By then, Betts had ingratiated himself with teammates and fans, who grew to love the 5-foot-9, 180-pound spark plug for his majestic home runs over the Green Monster and peerless patrolling of the tricky Fenway Park outfield.
His trade drew significant criticism in Boston, where fans bemoaned the Red Sox’s unwillingness to meet Betts’ demands on a long-term contract and lamented the loss of the team’s best homegrown player since Carl Yastrzemski. While Verdugo and Downs are expected to play large roles in the Red Sox’s retooling, Betts is on a Hall of Fame track — and now could spend the majority of his career in Los Angeles.
While the Dodgers are among the teams that have been hit the worst financially by the pandemic — they annually draw the most fans in baseball — it didn’t keep them from locking up Betts. Upon the suggestion by WEEI that a long-term deal with the Dodgers was imminent, players around the game hoped it was a sign that free agency might not be as bleak a landscape as has been assumed.
Perhaps that proves true, though Betts is a rare talent who will soon be in rare company. Only Mike Trout ($426.5 million), Bryce Harper ($330 million), Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million), Gerrit Cole ($324 million) and Manny Machado ($300 million) have crossed the $300 million contract threshold. When his deal is completed, Betts is expected to join them.