A special day has come for Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, one that he has worked his entire life for, to sign a long-term and lucrative deal to play Major League Baseball for the next 12 years as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Betts and team President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, just moments after the team announced that Betts had signed a 12-year/$365 million contract extension to remain in Los Angeles until the 2032 season.
“It’s a special day,” said Betts, “it’s what I’ve been working for my whole life. My family has been a part of this. It’s a day we’ve been dreaming about. I’m super proud to be a part of this organization for a long time.”
He hasn’t been a member of the Dodgers long though, playing in 10 exhibition games, but one thing was clear, Betts was all about focus:
“I kept my head down and kept playing baseball and an opportunity came. I was just focusing on playing every day and getting myself ready (for the season,)” Betts said.
The Dodgers knew that they had their eyes on the prize of Betts, electing to shell out top prospects Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and fellow prospect Connor Wong in exchange for Betts, but also taking along a nice chunk of David Price’s salary as he joined Betts in coming to Los Angeles.
Friedman’s plan was subtly unveiled, and Betts became a Dodger shortly thereafter. Then the rest of the plan came together to extend the Dodgers’ newest star.
“We talked about (an extension) in February. All the digging we had done on Mookie, and joked about it – he would blush if he heard what people had said about it,” Friedman said, “We appreciated the risk that came with 2020, and did everything we could to keep Mookie here the rest of his career.”
A player of this magnitude doesn’t come every day either. He was likely to commend a huge deal in free agency. Something kind of like the one he got. This coming from a team that historically does not spend in free agency.
“We traded away a lot of talent, but being around him during spring training and summer camp, he was the first guy on the field, doing drills. Reliving his last play with the Red Sox, where he scored from first base in Game 162, a meaningless game, shows the type of person he is. We got a chance to see it on a personal level and strengthened our commitment to him,” Friedman said.
They sure did. As ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan tweets, he gbot paid, earning a record $65 million signing bonus along the way.
Betts knows that Los Angeles is home, though.
“I think the time I’ve been here, the people here have made me feel comfortable; everybody from the front office to the owners, they are amazing. This organization is a well-oiled machine. I’m super excited to be a part of it for the next 12 years. I’m excited to bring some rings back here,” Betts said.
The first ring would be the team’s first since 1988. He has experience winning rings too, winning one in 2018 when he defeated most of his teammates in that year’s World Series.
He knows it’s about being a team player though, and that will be instrumental in the Dodgers being able to end their ringless drought in 2020.
“I’m not overly concerned with stepping in and becoming a leader here. I’m focused on coming in and winning rings. I’ve got to be Mookie Betts. I can’t be LeBron (James),” Betts said.
James and Betts could be tied to a lot more than that quote if all goes well in 2020 for Los Angeles sports. Until then though, Opening Day is just a day away, and No. 50 will play in Game 1 of a 12-year deal in Dodger Blue.
Is Friedman done though? Possibly not. As usual, he is thinking beyond just 2020.
“Patience is extremely important, and roster management, and figuring out how to be as good as we could be in a current year. Our fans don’t really care about 2023 or 2024 until we get there. We have to find a balance to get us there. If you want to make a bet like this, you have to care about the human’s ethic and what they feel. We’re really excited with how it turned out,” Friedman said.
In Friedman we trust, Los Angeles, and now in Mookie Betts as well.