Boston radio station WEEI first reported the news that an extension was close with Betts, whose résumé includes an MVP award (2018), a World Series title (2018) and the type of production matched or exceeded by only a handful of players over the past few seasons.
Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Giancarlo Stanton are the only other players currently on deals worth north of $300 million. Cole’s $36 million average annual salary is tops in the game on a per-year basis.
At one time, when the 2020 season hung in the balance because of both the coronavirus and the inability of MLB and its players’ union to strike an economic deal, it appeared Betts would never play a meaningful game in a Dodgers uniform.
Traded to Los Angeles by the Boston Red Sox in exchange for three younger players in February — before what would be his final season before reaching free agency — Betts, 27, could have taken his services to the open market this offseason, where he would have been the biggest prize.
But the Dodgers clearly believe Betts is worth handing what would be by far the largest contract in team history — even at a time when the coronavirus threatens the sport’s economics well beyond this summer. Many within the industry are expecting a depressed free agent market this winter, as teams look to recover from the economic hit of a shortened season played without fans. With Betts off the table, the most appealing free agents are Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and Houston Astros center fielder George Springer.
The Dodgers, however, are uniquely positioned to make such an aggressive move, with baseball’s highest attendance (3.97 million in 2019) and among its highest revenues, and with relatively few payroll commitments beyond 2022 — by which point the large contracts of David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner will have all expired.
From possibly never seeing Betts in their uniform, the Dodgers now are in position to keep him in it for the rest of his career.
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