On Thursday, the San Francisco Giants will travel south to open the truncated 2020 MLB season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. There, they’ll encounter Mookie Betts, making his Dodgers debut after an offseason trade from the Boston Red Sox.
Betts is very good. Presumably you are reading this article because you like baseball, in which case you probably already knew that piece of information.
How good is he? He’s “win an MVP when playing in the same league as the likely greatest player ever, in his prime” good (you can certainly argue that he shouldn’t have won, but finishing second to Mike Trout twice is hardly an indictment).
Trading for Betts felt a bit like a robbery, and in this case it was the rich robbing the rich: Boston didn’t want to have to pay Betts in free agency, so they let Los Angeles have his final year. The Dodgers sent Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong as a thank you for the Red Sox’s troubles, and agreed to take on the remaining years of David Price’s massive contract.
For as much of a thievery as it was, it also held some inherent risk for the Dodgers, because it was assumed that Betts would play one year for the Dodgers and then sign elsewhere. For as much talent as they’ve hoarded, paying large chunks of change to players hasn’t been the Dodgers’ M.O. They never really entered the Manny Machado sweepstakes, even though he spent his final year before free agency wearing the blue and white. They didn’t really make a legit run at Gerritt Cole last winter, or at Bryce Harper the winter before, and they let Giancarlo Stanton go to New York even though he was basically begging them to take on his contract.
But alas. All good trends must come to an end. It is here that I inform you, faithful San Francisco Giants fan, of what you already know because you read it in the headline: Betts appears to be staying put. The Dodgers and Betts are finalizing a deal more than a decade long, as first reported by NBC Sports’ Lou Merloni, and confirmed by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Including 2020, the new deal is expected to keep Mookie Betts in a Dodger uniform for 13 years at more than $380 million.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 22, 2020
Now, you might not know it yet, but this is not actually good news if you’re a Giants fan. It’s bad for two distinct reasons that you probably have not considered, and which require very deep technical analysis from someone like me, a professional sporting analyst. Allow me to enlighten you.
Reason #1: A really great player will spend the next decade on the team that the Giants not only hate but are trying to catch up to
OK, that seems pretty self explanatory.
Reason #2: That same really great player is now not available for the Giants to sign in free agency
OK, that also seems pretty self explanatory.
The Giants likely would have made a run at Betts, just as they did at Harper. Betts (who is just 27) is still on a timeline that fits San Francisco; the Giants have a lot of money coming off the books in the next two years; and the team has had exactly two All-Star appearances from an outfielder since Barry Bonds retired 13 years ago (those two campaigns, Hunter Pence in 2014 and Melky Cabrera in 2012, provided less WAR combined than Betts’ two best seasons).
So mourn the double-whammy, Giants fans. The Dodgers got better, and the Giants lost a clear avenue to do the same.