Getty Images

The Dodgers won 106 games last year. And now they’re even better.


Whatever you can say about the Mookie Betts trade from the Red Sox perspective — and we have said quite a lot — there is no escaping how amazing a deal this is from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ perspective.

The Dodgers, though having fallen just short of World Series victories in 2017 and 2018 and having been knocked out of the playoffs in the Division Series last season, were already the class of their division and one of the best teams in the game. They won 106 last year and at least made an effort to sign Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon. Neither of those efforts panned out, but with a week to go before pitchers and catchers report, they have added the second best player in the game in Betts and a solid starter who is still, on occasion, capable of greatness to their rotation. Even before the trade oddsmakers in Vegas and analysts at places like Fangraphs the projected the Dodgers to be the best team in the National League. With the addition of Betts and Price such projections now look overly conservative to say the least.

And the thing is, they didn’t need to give up that much or commit that much to land them.

Joc Pederson, who hit almost exclusively against righties, is being shipped out, but that creates a slot for Betts in the outfield. The Dodgers and their fans were high on outfielder Alex Vurdugo, who was the centerpiece of the deal from L.A’s side. But the fact is that he was not one of the Dodgers’ most coveted prospects, if you can even call him a prospect anymore given that he turns 24 in May. Indeed, he’s only three and a half years younger than Betts. Last year, in his age 23 season, he posted a 114 OPS+ as a part time player. In Betts’ age 23 season he finished second in the MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger Award. Yes, that’s an unfair comparison in some respects, as Verdugo has not gotten the chances Betts got at younger ages, but . . . there’s a reason Verdugo didn’t get those chances. He’s not as good. And from the Dodgers’ perspective, he was totally expendable.

It’s also worth noting that the Dodgers are now in a decent position to extend Betts if they want to. For one thing, they now have an exclusive negotiating window for the next several months. For another, though their payroll has remained high for several years, it is devoid of a ton of long-term deals. Even with Price in the fold, their long-term commitments after the 2021 season are pretty low. They have the ability to make a competitive offer to Betts even if they pay heed to the Competitive Balance Tax. Even if they don’t re-sign Betts, however, the Dodgers are a team on a win-now footing and there is no way whatsoever that adding Betts at the expense of Verdugo harms their ability to win now, even if he turns out to be a one-year rental.

As for Price, yes, L.A. needed to deal Kenta Maeda to get him, but Price is better than Maeda, who has been relegated to the bullpen in midseason on a consistent basis. The Sox are picking up around half of Price’s deal too, so it’s not like Price and the three years left on his deal are cumbersome. Indeed, at around $16 million each campaign, Price will cost the Dodgers just a tad more than what Mike Leake or Danny Duffy make.

Where does that leave the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers? Well, here is their projected lineup:

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, CF
5. Max Muncy, 1B
6. AJ Pollock, LF
7. Gavin Lux, 2B
8. Will Smith, C

That’s an imposing lineup even if Lux has some growing pains and even if Smith takes a step back from last season.

And here is their projected rotation:

1. Walker Buehler
2. Clayton Kershaw
3. David Price
4. Julio Urías
5. Alex Wood

That top five is not the best rotation in baseball, but it’s certainly one of the stronger ones in the National League. It’s also worth noting that the Dodgers have not pushed their starters particularly hard in the past few years, relying on depth and swingmen more than a lot of clubs. So add Dustin May into that group. And Ross Stripling . UPDATE: Stripling is gone. And wild cards like Tony Gonsolin and even Jimmy Nelson of all people. It’s a solid group that is no worse off for this trade and, actually, is probably better off.

The pennant-winning Dodgers of 2017 and 2018 and the 106-win Dodgers of 2019 know that there are no guarantees in the postseason. But they have loaded up again for another run in a trade for which there is hard to find any downside whatsoever. You have to love this deal if you’re a Dodgers fan.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images

On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: