Mookie Betts just got the richest contract in baseball history.
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced a 12-year contract extension for their newly acquired superstar outfielder that is worth a jaw-dropping $365 million. Add to that number the $27 million he was slated to make in a full 2020 season (his actual earnings won’t be that big after being prorated over 60 games), and it’s a nearly unfathomable $392 million the Dodgers have committed to Betts.
It’s excellent news for Betts and pretty stellar news for the Dodgers, too, who just locked up one of the game’s best players for the next dozen years, seemingly keeping themselves in contention mode for the foreseeable future. The Dodgers, already perhaps baseball’s best team, showed that the rich can indeed get richer, while Betts showed that getting richer won’t be a problem for the game’s top talent, even in this new economic climate created by the pandemic-related circumstances of 2020 and beyond.
But while the Dodgers might have landed baseball’s biggest fish, the new deal makes the White Sox look like the game’s smartest shoppers.
Indeed, the White Sox showed their willingness to spend over the offseason, signing free agents Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel to big multi-year deals. The offseason prior, they were in the hunt for the services of free agent Manny Machado, supposedly offering him a contract that could have netted him north of the $300 million he received from the San Diego Padres.
But the most savvy signings made by Rick Hahn’s front office in recent years might prove to be the long-term deals handed out to a trio of young stars in the making.
In 2019, Eloy Jiménez signed a deal that could get him $75 million over as many as eight seasons. This past offseason, Luis Robert signed a similar contract, also before playing a major league game, and he could make $88 million over eight seasons. During spring training, Yoán Moncada got his own long-term deal that could make him $90 million over the next six seasons.
Add it all up, and that’s a $253 million price tag, should the White Sox pick up all the options on all three of those deals.
If you want to go a step further and point to the $27 million signing bonus Robert received when the White Sox signed him as an international free agent back in 2017, that brings the total to $279 million.
Or $139 million less than what the Dodgers just gave Betts.
No one should doubt the Dodgers’ investment in Betts, who has proven himself one of the game’s best players in recent seasons. He won the AL MVP in 2018, leading the Boston Red Sox to a World Series championship. He followed it up with another sterling season in 2019. All told, the 27-year-old has four All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and four top-10 finishes in MVP voting in the last four seasons. He’s excellent. And the Dodgers will have an excellent player as the face of their franchise for the next 13 years.
But he’s only one guy.
Again, it’s not to criticize the Dodgers, as they’ve shown they’re perfectly capable of constructing one of baseball’s best rosters on a yearly basis. Betts might be the new face of the franchise in Hollywood, but there’s another guy on his own team, Cody Bellinger, who’s won an MVP award more recently. The Dodgers, who have won seven straight NL West championships and a pair of National League pennants in the last three seasons, are going to be just fine.
But compare the money it took to land Betts to the money it took for the White Sox to lock up their young hitters, and it’s not difficult to suggest the South Siders might have gotten way more bang for their buck, even if they still have the tall task of actually moving into a winning mode before being considered on the same level as the Dodgers.
Obviously, none of Moncada, Jiménez or Robert have accomplished anything close to what Betts has. But they’re all younger than him and just embarking on their major league careers with hopes that they could find themselves in the upper echelon of major league stars one day.
Moncada emerged as the team’s best all-around player last season and is being discussed as the White Sox best chance for an MVP candidate in 2020 and beyond. He might soon be surpassed in that department by Robert, if all the talk about him during “Summer Camp” is to be believed. Jiménez, meanwhile, is fresh off a 31-homer rookie season during which, as White Sox brass is fond of saying, he only scratched the surface of the kind of hitter he can be.
Just look at the monster Septembers that Moncada and Jiménez had last season. Moncada had an 1.102 OPS in the season’s final month, and Jiménez had a 1.093 OPS in September, both bigger than any of the monthly OPSs Betts put up last season.
Robert, meanwhile, dazzled minor league crowds with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel plays in center field. The evaluators say he’s the best of the White Sox young collection of talent, and starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, a young star in the making in his own right, said Robert’s going to be “an absolute beast for the next 10 to 20 years.”
It’s possible not one of these guys ever reaches Betts’ incredible heights. But there’s three of them. And they cost the White Sox an awful lot less than Betts just cost the Dodgers.
While spending on free agents from outside the organization was always part of Hahn's rebuilding plan, so too was using financial resources to lock up the team's own talent from within.
Three stars for less than the price of one? As the White Sox look to have their own contention window open deep into the next decade, it’s not a bad spot to start from.