The Dodgers won the trade.
I’m not a huge fan of viewing transactions in this fashion, since trades can and should provide different benefits to each party in the deal. But it’s beyond safe to say that the Dodgers got exactly what they wanted and then some by acquiring Mookie Betts from the Red Sox.
“When we acquired him, my expectations were sky high, and somehow he managed to find headroom above that, and exceed it,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said after the World Series. “I just can’t say enough about the baseball player, the way he makes everyone around him better. It’s hard to imagine us sitting here right now without him.”
Where the Dodgers were sitting on October 27 were in the bowels of Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, holding the franchise’s first World Series trophy in 32 years. Betts had a hand in every facet of the game all year long.
Betts hit .292/.366/.562 with a 149 wRC+, tying for the team lead with 16 home runs, including a three-homer game on August 13 against San Diego. That was Betts’ sixth three-homer game, tying Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa for the most ever. As Betts once joked to his Boston teammates, from a wonderful profile by Pedro Moura at The Athletic, “Come on, guys, that’s like a once-in-a-year thing.”
On the bases, Betts stole a team-high 10 bases, then six more without getting caught during the postseason. He made scoring from third base on a ground ball exciting, whether it was the go-ahead run on Opening Day or the go-ahead runs in Games 1 and 6 of the World Series.
“His jump, his timing, his break off the bat, that’s what made him be safe,” Clayton Kershaw said of the Game 1 break for home. “There’s a lot of guys who are fast, but not many guys can do that.”
Betts led the National League in bWAR (3.6) and finished second in NL MVP voting. He won a Silver Slugger for the fourth time and a Gold Glove for the fifth time. He topped NL outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved (+11) during the regular season, but his defensive prowess was perhaps best shown during the NLCS, when he made game-turning plays in each of the final three games of the series.
Kershaw earlier in the season called Betts the best right fielder he’s ever seen, a though that was likely aided by this throw on July 31 in Phoenix, at 302 feet the longest throw of the MLB season.
In addition to his regular season prowess, Betts hit .296/.378/.493 and scored 15 runs in 18 games. He hit both of his postseason home runs in the World Series, in which he also doubled twice and stole four bases, including earning everyone a free taco for the second time in his career.
Betts can seemingly do it all, and all the consternation over the Dodgers trading for only one season of Betts melted away in July when the Dodgers signed Betts for 12 years and $365 million, the largest contract in team history.
The Dodgers are Mookie’s team, and he’s signed through 2032. It was one hell of a first impression.
Stats: .292/.366/.562, 16 HR, 10 SB, 149 wRC+, 3.6 bWAR
Salary: $27 million
Game of the year
Betts reached base all five times on August 13, getting hit by a pitch in the first inning, then homering off Chris Paddack in the second, and homering off Luis Perdomo in both the fourth and fifth innings. Betts also had an infield single in the seventh inning of Luis Patiño, and scored four runs in an 11-2 Dodgers blowout of the Padres.
This was also the game Betts moved into the leadoff spot for good. Beginning with this game, Betts scored 52 runs scored in 55 games, including the playoffs. The Dodgers won 42 of those games, a .756 winning percentage.
Betts is signed for 12 (!!!) more seasons, through 2032. His salary for 2021 is $17.5 million, of which $8 million is deferred. He also gets paid $5 million of his $65 million signing bonus next year.