Dodgers in prime position to extend or retain Mookie Betts after Red Sox trade

One of the narratives the Red Sox and media were trying to feed the public is it made sense to trade Mookie Betts since he was dead set on testing the free agent market this coming winter. As absurd as that is is to believe, some folks did. This is, apparently, the lowly Boston Red Sox we’re talking about after all.

As such, Betts is now a Dodger and he is a player they should absolutely do everything to keep, whether that’s an extension now or giving him the largest free-agent contract to date in November or December. Apart from being literally the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team are also in a prime position to offer a mega-contract anyway.

After the 2020 season, the following contracts will fall off the books:

PlayerReal $ (millions)CBT $ (millions)
Mookie Betts$27$27
Justin Turner$20$16
Blake Treinen$10 $10
Joc Pederson$7.75$7.75
Enrique Hernandez$5.9$5.9
Pedro Baez$4* $4*
Alex Wood$4** $4**
Jimmy Nelson$0.75** $1.25**
Total$79.4$75.9

*Baez’s salary still undetermined. He’ll make $4 million or $3.5 million via arbitration
**Doesn’t include potential incentives

Obviously, any money reinvested to Betts’ deal would negate some of the savings above, but that’s fine. Let’s look at who’s coming off the books after 2021:

PlayerReal $ (millions)CBT $ (millions)
Clayton Kershaw$31$31
Kenley Jansen$20$16
Corey Seager$10*$10*
Joe Kelly$8.5**$8.33**
Chris Taylor$7.8$6.7
Total$77.3$72.03

*Rough estimate arbitration figure
**Team option for 2022

Neither of these factor in the sizeable arbitration raises coming to Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler, but even with those, the Dodgers have more than enough room to retain Betts.

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The Dodgers are also firmly in the luxury tax now — just as Stan Kasten foretold. Because of this, the draft pick compensation the Dodgers would receive should Betts sign elsewhere (because there’s no way they don’t give him a qualifying offer) would not be as valuable.

“If a qualifying-offer free agent’s previous team is over the luxury-tax threshold, said team will receive a compensation pick after the fourth round has been completed. If a team neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing, its compensatory pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B. The value of the free agent’s new contract has no impact on the compensation pick in both of these cases.”

That just isn’t the same as receiving a Top 70 pick. In the 2020 MLB Draft, the first pick after the fourth round would be No. 134, so you can see why that pick wouldn’t be as enticing to a luxury tax team like the Dodgers and provides extra marginal incentive to just retain Betts.

Additionally, let’s factor that the Dodgers will be in need of an outfielder after 2020. Alex Verdugo went to Boston and Pederson is a free agent after the season, which would leave the Dodgers with a 2021 outfield of Pollock-Taylor-Bellinger. Not terrible, but not great. Factor in that guys like Matt Beaty, DJ Peters and Luke Raley aren’t full-time outfielders and you can see why they’d need to add an outfielder. If you look the remaining free-agent options after Pederson, they’re pretty uninspiring. The top names are Michael Brantley, Marcell Ozuna and George Springer, all of whom represent a significant downgrade from Betts.

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Whatever Betts signs for next winter, it’s going to set a record. We’re talking 10-12 years at $35-40 million per season. The Dodgers have never given out a contract that rich or long. They were in on Gerrit Cole for $300 million over eight years, and Cole was a 29-year-old pitcher. Betts will be going into his age-28 season after spending a year with the Dodgers.

As usual, Daniel is right. Here’s hoping Dodger brass does whatever it takes to keep him — just as the Red Sox should have done.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.