When the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers officially announced a blockbuster deal in February that sent outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price to the Dodgers in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo, shortstop Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong, it seemed like a brilliant move that landed the Dodgers a much needed right-handed batter and another former Cy Young Award winner.
While the gem of the deal was Betts, the possibility of the 2020 season being canceled or played in an adjusted stadium capacity means the trade was all for nothing.
Betts, 27, is in his last year of arbitration where he is slated to make $27 million before becoming a free agent for the first time in his career, according to FanGraphs. Over Betts' six seasons with the team that drafted him 172nd overall in 2011, he earned the 2018 MVP award, four All-Star appearances and three Silver Slugger awards. Betts also owns a .301/.374/.519 career slash line to accompany his 139 home runs and 470 RBIs. In total, Betts has amassed a career 37.2 WAR.
When the Dodgers traded for Betts, they were hoping to get the most out of him to make a run at their third World Series appearance in four years. Now, the possibility looms that Betts' only time wearing a Dodgers uniform was during a shortened spring training.
To start with the obvious, it is no surprise that noncontending or rebuilding teams will trade their stars with one or two years left on their contract to replenish a minor league system and be competitive again in a few years. It is exactly what the Red Sox did. With significant money invested in outfielder/DH J.D. Martinez and starting pitcher Chris Sale — who recently had Tommy John surgery and isn't expected to pitch again until mid-2021 — the Red Sox could not afford to add a $300 million contract to their books.
In a not-so-surprising move, the Red Sox sent Betts and Price to the Dodgers, who had the prospective depth and financial flexibility to afford both contracts — Price is still owed $93 million of his seven-year, $217 million deal he originally inked with the Red Sox as a free agent.
When the three-team trade between the Dodgers, Red Sox and Minnesota Twins was officially announced, the Dodgers immediately became the National League favorites, if they were not so already. The Dodgers made an excellent trade at the right time but such a big market team made one critical error — they did not attempt to extend him after acquiring him.
Extending Betts may have been a long shot, especially when he is reportedly looking for a deal in the range of Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper, according to Sports Illustrated.
As a baseball fan, I hope the season returns in some capacity this year, as long as it is safe for players to do so. However, from the Dodgers perspective, this stings. Many were looking forward to an incredible season with Betts and Bellinger leading the offensive charge. Now, the trade may have backfired and the Dodgers lost young, controllable, and talented players like Verdugo and Downs for zero regular-season games from Betts.