The coronavirus pandemic could cost Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts millions in free agency.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired superstar Mookie Betts during the offseason, it was under the presumption that the 2018 American League MVP would demand a massive contract following the 2020 season, which made it too risky for a belt-tightening team in Boston to keep him.
Since then, a lot has happened. With the coronavirus pandemic shuttering businesses across the country, including Major League Baseball, the economics surrounding Betts’ upcoming contract negotiations have changed.
According to Peter Gammons, one of the most trusted insiders in baseball, the former Red Sox would be lucky to receive $250 million in free agency this winter.
"“Free agency is not going to even be, there are no screams — free agency is going to be a whisper for the next three years,” Gammons said 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh show in Chicago. “There are few people that I like better in baseball than Mookie Betts. I thought he was going to make between $350 (million) to $400 million. He’d be lucky to get up to $250 (million) in free agency this coming winter, if they play. It’s just the reality of economics. It’s true in almost every business.”"
Betts, who is in his final season of arbitration, will become eligible for free agency whether games are played in 2020 or not. The Red Sox reportedly made several offers to try to keep the five-tool player in Boston, but Betts was determined to make it to the open market.
According to WEEI out of Boston, the Sox offered Betts an extension that would have paid him $300 million over ten years. The outfielder reportedly countered by asking for 12-years, $420 million.
Based on an agreement between MLB and the player’s union in March, players will earn a pro-rated amount of their 2020 salary, adjusted for the number of games played. The owners are trying to negotiate a further pay reduction in a broad proposal that would set an 82-game schedule this season.
If the pro-rated terms stand, Betts, who was set to make $27 million with the Dodgers, would suddenly only make half of that, or $13.5 million.
In other words, combined with his reduction in pay this season, Betts could lose over $150 million due to the pandemic, if Gammons’ prediction on a cooled free agent market is correct. And it doesn’t take a Nobel laureate in economics to predict tighter spending next offseason.
For the Dodgers, this could be viewed as either good news or bad news. On the one hand, the asking price for Betts could become more affordable for big market teams who still have money to spend; on the other hand, the entire reason why Betts will likely see his contract value depreciate is because there won’t be many teams with enough cash flow to splurge this offseason. We will see what happens.