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Dodgers and Mookie Betts agree to 12-year, $365 million contract extension

The Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365-million contract extension.
The Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts are agreed to a 12-year, $365-million contract extension.
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension Wednesday that should keep Betts in Los Angeles for the rest of his career.

It is the second-largest deal in Major League Baseball history, exceeded only by the 12-year, $426.5 million extension Mike Trout signed with the Angels in March 2019. The pact includes a record $65-million signing bonus and deferred money. It does not include an opt-out clause or a no-trade clause. Betts will make $10 million during this abbreviated season before playing under the new deal in 2021.

“It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life,” Betts, 27, said in a videoconference call with reporters. “My family has been part of this, my parents have been a part of this. Everybody who has been a part of this whole thing, this is the day that we’ve been dreaming about.”

The agreement materialized a day before the Dodgers face the San Francisco Giants to open a pandemic-shortened 60-game season that appeared in jeopardy when heated negotiations between owners and the union festered during the league’s shutdown. Not staging a season could have meant Betts never played a meaningful game for the Dodgers. He will now not only play in Los Angeles in 2020, but potentially through 2032 and his 39th birthday.

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The contract Betts signed is the richest Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, has given a player by a nine-figure margin. The team has re-signed players to substantial contacts since Friedman took over in October 2014, but none reached the $100-million threshold. Even in the anticipated depressed free-agent market this winter after a truncated season without gate revenue, Betts easily smashed that ceiling.

“When you’re making an investment of this magnitude, you’re not just betting on the player’s ability, you’re also betting on the person,” Friedman said. “With that, we couldn’t be more comfortable to make that bet than on Mookie Betts.”

The Dodgers acquired Betts, a four-time All-Star and the 2018 American League MVP, and left-handed pitcher David Price from the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects days before players reported for spring training in February.

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Betts arrived as a one-year rental with free agency looming in the winter after rejecting a $300-million extension offer from the Red Sox. The Dodgers’ decision carried risk, but Betts is arguably the best player in the world not named Trout. They tried acquiring him at the trade deadline last summer. They were enamored with him.

Betts was the elite player they meticulously prepared to add for their October push to end a 32-year championship drought. And they were confident they could persuade Betts to stay in Los Angeles.

“When we made that trade,” Friedman said, “we did it with more than 2020 in mind.”

Betts made a lasting first impression in spring training. He arrived every day at 5 a.m. for workouts. One morning, a few days after reporting, he delivered a speech in front of his new team to stress urgency. People were in awe of his work ethic and determination. He became a clubhouse leader before playing in a game. Decision-makers became convinced he was a person to build a franchise around.

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Dodgers superstar outfielder Mookie Betts grew up and still lives in Tennessee, yet his immediate goal is to win a World Series for his new big-city team.

By March, Friedman said, the two sides were engaged in negotiations. The talks were stalled when MLB suspended operations March 12, spinning everything into uncertainty. The negotiations resumed last week with a request from Betts: He wanted a deal done before opening day to avoid distractions during the season.

The deadline generated long nights for Dodgers executives and Steve Veltman, Betts’ agent. By Tuesday, a deal was likely. Betts took his physical and didn’t report to Dodger Stadium as his teammates played the final of their three exhibition games.

“The people here made me feel so comfortable,” Betts said. “The talent all the way down from the minor leagues, everybody in the front office from the owner on down, everybody is amazing. I think this organization is a well-oiled machine.”

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The Dodgers, however, haven’t won a World Series since 1988. This year might be their best shot to end the drought.

With the novel coronavirus posing as a looming threat to derail rosters, the Dodgers, maybe the deepest team in the majors, could be best equipped for this strange season. They have the best offense in the National League with Betts and Cody Bellinger, two of the four players to win MVP Awards the last two seasons, fronting the charge. They have Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler topping the rotation. They have relievers who can overwhelm hitters.

But the team isn’t flawless. There are questions at the back end of the bullpen after Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly and Blake Treinen delivered disappointing 2019 seasons. The rotation depth, usually an unquestioned strength, isn’t as fortified. The team lost Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda over the offseason before Price, slotted into the No. 3 spot in the rotation, opted not to play this season.

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The pressure is on to win the World Series in October. But the Dodgers are expected to make continued runs at the title every fall for the foreseeable future.

Friedman positioned the organization for this expenditure with careful planning, simultaneously crafting a perennial championship contender and a loaded farm system to sustain success. The Dodgers didn’t have any guaranteed money on their payroll after the 2022 season. The flexibility prompted them to get more aggressive over the winter to

The organization pursued starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, the top free agent in the class, and offered him an eight-year $300-million contract with deferrals. Cole decided to sign a nine-year contract worth $324 million with the New York Yankees that made him the highest-paid player per average annual value at $36 million a year.

After falling short, the Dodgers set their sights on acquiring a superstar on the trade market. They were focused on Betts by the end of January. A three-team trade including the Minnesota Twins was agreed upon the first week of February, but the Twins backed off, forcing the Dodgers and Red Sox to restructure a direct transaction.

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The Dodgers then worked a side deal with the Twins, sending Maeda, catching prospect Jair Camargo and cash to Minnesota for reliever Brusdar Graterol and minor league outfielder Luke Raley.

Graterol is expected to make the Dodgers’ opening day roster. Betts will lead off and play right field at Dodger Stadium on Thursday and, in all likelihood, for a long, long time.

“I love being here,” Betts said. “I love just everything about here.”


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