Star outfielder Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed on a 12-year, $ 365 million extension that keeps the former American League MVP from reaching free agency this winter, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Combined with the one-year, $ 27 million contract he’s currently playing out, Betts’ total comes to 13 years and $ 392 million. The deal tops the previous extension record of $ 360 million signed by Mike Trout and includes a record $ 65 million signing bonus.
The Dodgers announced the extension but not the terms Wednesday afternoon.
“I just love being here,” Betts said in a videoconference call from Dodger Stadium, where he will make his Dodgers debut Thursday against San Francisco. “I love everything about here. I’m here to win some rings and bring championships back to LA. That’s all I’m focused on.”
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 Betts 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, but there was speculation that the game’s unclear financial future would muddy Betts’ windfall.
However, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said an extension was always top of mind.
“It was something we really wanted to do … We were hopeful that he’d get here, fall in love with it, go out there and win a bunch of games,” he said.
Friedman said he began discussing a long-term deal with Betts’ representatives in March, before the pandemic upended the season. They picked up discussions again last week, and a deal was reached rapidly.
“Our desire to get something done didn’t change at all,” Friedman said. “It helps when both sides are coming at it from a standpoint of wanting to get a deal done.”
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 that last season by hitting .295/.391/.524.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Betts has posted four straight seasons with at least 100 runs, 40 doubles and 20 home runs, which ties him with Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols for the longest such streak in the expansion era, which began in 1961.
Betts is also an elite defender, having won the AL Gold Glove for right field each of the past four seasons, and he ranks second in baseball since 2016 with 93 defensive runs saved.
The Dodgers, with a strong young core and payroll flexibility, were the ideal destination for Betts. The team 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.
With 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 Betts’ Red Sox in 2018.
In Boston, Betts went from a fifth-round pick taken as a second baseman out of a Nashville, Tennessee, high school to a star who transitioned to outfield in his third season. By then, he 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 for a long-term contract and lamented the loss of the team’s best homegrown player since Carl Yastrzemski. Although 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.
Former MLB All-Star and World Series champion Chase Utley says Mookie Betts’ contract extension is a win for both Betts and the Dodgers.
When asked Wednesday whether he would have agreed to a similar deal with Boston, Betts paused and smiled, calling it “a very valid question.”
“I think I just want to stick with, ‘I’m here in L.A.,”’ he said.
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 — that 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 that it was a sign that free agency might not be as bleak a landscape as has been assumed.
Perhaps that will prove true, though Betts is a rare talent who is in rare company. Before the agreement, only Trout ($ 426.5 million), Bryce Harper ($ 330 million), Giancarlo Stanton ($ 325 million), Gerrit Cole ($ 324 million) and Manny Machado ($ 300 million) had crossed the $ 300 million contract threshold.
“I’m excited for him,” said Trout, who texted his congratulations to Betts. “We kind of went through the same situation. I was laughing because of the physical he probably had to take — because mine lasted about 10 hours. Being so close to him now, it’s pretty cool to have him out here. Southern California is great.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.