Mookie Betts still set for 2021 market with MLB service time deal likely

A tentative agreement between MLB and the Players Association on service time calculations during a shortened season helps Mookie Betts.

Mookie Betts was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers under the assumption that he would become a free agent in 2021. That’s why the Red Sox traded one of the best young players in all of baseball. That’s how the Dodgers set the price they paid to acquire him. With the star centerfielder set to test the market and fetch as much as $400 million dollars next winter, the Sox decided to close their wallets and exchange Betts for young assets.

As Major League Baseball, like the rest of the country, quietly works behind isolated doors, negotiations are taking place over scheduling and service time questions. MLB and the Players Association have made progress on a deal that would grant a full year of service to players who remain active the entire 2020 season, regardless of the number of games that are played, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

This is a critical decision for Mookie Betts and the Dodgers. Betts is currently 102 days short of qualifying for his sixth year of service, which would grant him free agency eligibility following the 2020 season. There was concern by the Players Association that if an abbreviated season started as late as June or July, there wouldn’t be enough days on the calendar for players, like Betts, to reach their service time requirements.

If MLB held firm on an earlier stance that service time would be based on games played the previous season and then actual days played during the 2020 season, there was a chance the Dodgers could have gained an extra year of team control on Betts, delaying his expected massive payday.

In an even worse scenario for Dodgers fans, the agreement allows for players to receive a full year of service even if the entire 2020 season is canceled. In other words, there’s a chance Mookie Betts could enter free agency without ever playing a game for the Dodgers!

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Mookie Betts is two years removed from winning the American League MVP, the same year he won the batting title. He is a four-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, and four-time Gold Glover, and only 27 years old. He will undoubtedly break the bank when free agency arrives in 2021.