Mookie Betts was always going to be a free agent and the Dodgers were always going to have to pay to keep him

Mookie Betts (Photo: Cody Bashore)

You may have heard that MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement regarding, among other things, service time for players this season. With the season realistically in doubt, something had to be done.

This agreement gives players a full year of service time, regardless of how long the 2020 season is. There could be no games and players would get a full year of service time. This is different for fringe-roster players who may shuttle between the minors and majors, but that certainly doesn’t pertain to Mookie Betts, which is what Dodger fans are truly wondering about.

There’s a real chance Betts doesn’t suit up for the Dodgers in a regular season game before hitting free agency this winter, and folks are concerned that the Dodgers gave up Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong for almost nothing — they still got David Price for half of his remaining contract, while also landing Brusdar Graterol and a draft pick in the upcoming abbreviated draft for Kenta Maeda. After all, the Dodgers would be in line to end up with minimal value from Betts, as they would be in line to collect just a compensatory draft pick that would come after the fourth round of (a loaded) 2021 MLB Draft.

But there was always a nearly 100 percent chance Betts was going to be a free agent next offseason. The only thing that has changed — and it’s a biggie — is that we’re dealing with a pandemic that has altered out way of life for the foreseeable future. That’s no one’s fault, and Betts (and other pending free agents) shouldn’t be punished for that. In an alternate universe, Betts could have suffered a season-ending injury in Spring Training and never played for the Dodgers. That was infinitely more likely than a pandemic, but I’m not fretting too much because there’s one very simple solution to this: Give Betts all the money.

I laid out an idea that the Dodgers could extend Betts before the world began its sharp downward trend.

“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.”

Now, if Betts — who will be going into his age-28 season — is truly set on testing the free-agent market (as is his right), then there won’t be any extension. That shouldn’t matter, though. The Dodgers want to keep Betts. They didn’t make this trade with the thought that they’d just let him walk for what equates to the first pick of the fifth round of the 2021 draft, and preventing that was always going to cost a ton of money.

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It’s true that we haven’t seen the Dodgers back up the Brinks truck to sign a free agent in the Friedman era. They offered $300 million to Gerrit Cole, who signed for more money with the Yankees. They were interested in Bryce Harper on a $35-plus million short-term deal that had no chance of happening. They let Yu Darvish and Manny Machado walk after acquiring them around the trade deadline. However, Betts seems to be a different situation than all those.

Either that or just offer him 10 years and $400 million right now and be done with it. Whatever. Not enough? OK, $450 million. Who cares. Not my money. And honestly, if there’s no 2020 season or an abbreviated one, then I think it makes it more likely the Dodgers do whatever it takes to retain Betts.

In the most Dodger way imaginable, they finally “go for it” by landing a premiere player only to have the 2020 season in doubt due to a pandemic. Because there was no other way for this to play out. Here’s hoping we get to see Betts play many games as a Dodger regardless of how 2020 ends up.

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.