Morale has been lagging among the Dodgers and their fans lately–the Astros cheating scandal renewing frustrations about 2017’s World Series defeat on top of a disappointing first-round wash-out in last year’s postseason–but perhaps a flurry of player trade deals announced yesterday will shake off the cloud of discontent. The team will add Mookie Betts, considered one of the best players in baseball, among other lineup changes.
Betts is a big deal in the sports world. The 27-year-old outfielder (and sometime-second baseman) has played for the Boston Red Sox since 2014, and was seen as particularly instrumental in that team’s 2018 World Series victory over the Dodgers. In that year, he became the first Major League Baseball player to ever win the league’s MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, AL batting title, and a World Series all in the same year. He’s been named an All-Star player for four consecutive years. In 2018, the Boston Globe asked experts to name the single best player in the league; three of 10 experts picked Betts, the other seven opted for Angels center-fielder Mike Trout.
Baseball isn’t Betts’s only athletic pursuit. Prior to going pro with baseball, he was seen as a promising high school basketball player. And, even during his MLB career, he has maintained a side-hustle as a professional bowler. He has bowled three perfect games in the Professional Bowling Association’s World Series of Bowling, in 2013, 2016, and 2017. But he was, in a sense, born for the MLB. His mother, a passionate sports fan, was his first Little League Baseball coach, and selected his full given name, Markus Lynn Betts, intentionally to give him the initials “M.L.B.” (The nickname Mookie is attributed to his mother watching ’90s NBA player Mookie Blaylock in Betts’s youth.)
Heading to Los Angeles along with Betts will be his Red Sox teammate, outfielder Alex Verdugo, ESPN reports. In the same three-team deal, Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda will go to the Minnesota Twins. Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol will go to the Red Sox to complete the trade.
Maeda isn’t the only Dodger departing the team. Popular player Joc Pederson will head to Anaheim to join Trout in the Angels outfield–at least for the coming season. In 2021, he will become a free agent, and could move again. Pederson could make either $9.5 million or $7.75 million for the year, according to ESPN; moving him off the Dodgers payroll appears designed to keep the team under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Also called the ‘luxury tax,’ according to a rule that went into effect in 2017, teams are taxed heavily on every dollar they pay in salaries above a cutoff point. For the coming season, that cap is $208 million.
In return for Pederson, the Angels will send infielder Luis Rengifo up to the Dodgers. That may not be the end of trades for the team. Some are suggesting the club may continue to wheel and deal over the coming weeks. Regardless, it should be an exciting season for the team, with high expectations in place. Early response to the moves already has some analysts projecting the Dodgers are the favorite to clinch at least the National League title in the coming season.
“It’s 2020, a new decade,” Dodgers left fielder Enrique Hernandez said at a recent press conference. “The ’20s are going to be the Dodgers’ decade.”
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