Adding multi-tool outfielder Mookie Betts to an already explosive offense seemed like overkill for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Then again, that franchise hasn’t won a World Series championship since 1988. For all of its financial clout and its ability to operate as one of baseball’s “superteams” with a massive payroll, it hasn’t been as successful as the Cardinals.
So Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman went big-game hunting over the winter looking to add an elite talent. After failing to woo Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole in free agency, he acquired Betts from the Boston Red Sox.
"We've had really talented teams in the past," Friedman told reporters Wednesday "This is quite possibly our most talented team."
Friedman was willing to spend big to secure that talent. Not only was he willing to take on Betts’ $27 million for this season, he accepted pitcher David Price in that trade and absorbed half of the $96 million left on that contract.
And Friedman wants to lock in Betts for the long haul. That won’t be easy, since the Betts camp is eager to explore free agency and seek a contract that could crash the $400 million barrier.
"We obviously know that his team control is up after 2020," Friedman said. "We're hoping that he falls in love with the team, the city, the fans and wants to be here for a long time."
Friedman has coveted Betts since back in his days running the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays, when Betts was just a minor-league prospect.
"It goes back a long time, from afar," Friedman said. "He may wanna get a restraining order against me."
Good one, Andrew. But nobody in LA will be laughing if the Dodgers fall short again next fall after taking these extreme measures to win it all.
Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:
Kirby McDaniel, ESPN.com: “The Rockies also are running into their payroll ceiling and haven't done much this offseason except alienate their franchise player and have owner Dick Monfort help make obvious that management is a real issue here. Prioritizing continuity would be a charitable way to describe the long leash given to the handful of general managers in club history, above and beyond their performance. GM Jeff Bridich has a reputation with other clubs of not being especially easy to work with, while his management of the club's payroll hasn't inspired much hope for a rebound this year. After the situation with Nolan Arenado had spun out of control, Monfort proclaimed his team would win 94 games in 2020. Winning 94 would be a club record and only the third time the team would have topped 90 wins in its 28-year history. Monfort's evidence was nonexistent as the team won 71 games last year with a minus-123 run differential and no meaningful changes to the roster this year. Beyond the Astros/Red Sox scandals, Arenado reporting to camp will arguably be the biggest storyline to watch in the coming weeks as this concerning situation could still get much worse.”
R.J. Anderson, CBSSports.com: “The prevailing theme of the Cardinals' offseason has been shedding their outfield depth, not adding to it. John Mozeliak traded Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, and he later let Marcell Ozuna walk in free agency without signing or acquiring a replacement. (Austin Dean does not count, sorry.) Mozeliak even shopped around Dexter Fowler, according to league sources. If the Cardinals opt to start Matt Carpenter at third base most days, then Tommy Edman could receive ample burn in the outfield. Alternatively, the Cardinals could plug in Tyler O’Neill or Lane Thomas. Mozeliak might be okay with those scenarios, but Pederson would seem like a smart get (and an upgrade) for the reigning National League Central champions.”
Michael Baumann, The Ringer: “The Padres’ primary opponent is quite formidable. The Dodgers have won seven division titles in a row—they’re what you’d get if you took the Yankees and swapped out the DH for freeways and massive geological instability. The Padres, meanwhile, haven’t won more than 90 games since 1998 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. And even when the Padres were bad they weren’t interesting. They floated along as something less than an afterthought, the last team you’d think of when listing all 30 MLB franchises. Before last season, a ranking of the most interesting San Diego baseball players of the past decade would include more college players (Stephen Strasburg and Kris Bryant) and characters from Pitch than actual Padres. But in 2019, the Padres turned into a kind of hipster favorite. They signed (Manny) Machado to a $300 million contract, announcing themselves as serious big-market players. That spring, a farm system built through savvy drafting and trades began to bear fruit in the form of Fernando Tatís, who was even better than Machado when not sidelined by back and hamstring injuries, and pitcher Chris Paddack.”
“I was shocked, shocked. Mookie is one of the best players in the league. He brought a lot of memories to us. He brought us a World Series ring. He’s a very special player for us. He’s going to be a champion for life, so he’s going to be missed here. ... It’s tough, but the Red Sox pay us to play baseball, not control that other stuff. We have to keep fighting together as a family, and stick together.’’
• Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, on his team trading away Betts.