Betts, Price arrive in LA: 'Something special'

February 13th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- and spent much of the past week unsure just where they’d be playing in 2020.

News of a potential trade that would send the outfielder and the left-hander from Boston to Los Angeles first broke on Tuesday, Feb. 4. It wasn’t until the following Monday that the deal went official, with outfielder Alex Verdugo, shortstop Jeter Downs (the No. 44 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline) and catcher Connor Wong (Los Angeles’ No. 28 prospect) going back to the Red Sox.

Betts and Price said they took the uncertainty in stride, accepting the situation as beyond their control and knowing they’d make the best of wherever they ended up.

“It wasn’t as easy for us,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said with a smile.

With all said and done, the atmosphere was jubilant at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday as the two newest members of the squad were introduced. Assisted by Friedman and manager Dave Roberts, Betts and Price tried on their Dodgers jerseys and caps for the first time, and took a tour of the outfield renovations being made in preparation for the 2020 All-Star Game.

"To be able to jump on to a team like the Dodgers, a team that has had the amount of success they've had the last couple years, and then add a player like Mookie Betts, and then to be able to add myself to that mix as well?” Price said. “That's something special to be a part of, and we're both very excited for that.”

The trade was a win the Dodgers sorely needed after an early postseason exit in 2019, missing out on big-name free agents and the departure of several of their core players. And the acquisitions make an already strong Dodgers roster even better. In Betts, 27, Los Angeles gets one of the best players in baseball in his prime.

“It doesn’t take deep analysis to have Mookie at the top of your list,” Friedman said. “But yeah, he was definitely a guy that we were hoping would line up in this way, that we’d be going to Glendale [Ariz., for Spring Training] with him in a Dodgers uniform.”

The 2018 American League MVP, Betts joins an outfield that includes last year’s National League MVP, Cody Bellinger.

"We've kind of talked through passing at the All-Star Game and as we played here," Betts said of his relationship with Bellinger. "It's going to be pretty special. He won the MVP last year, so he's definitely going to put on a show, and I'll do my best to keep up with him."

Although Betts’ name headlined the deal, Price, 34, has the potential to be a difference maker for the Dodgers as well. The southpaw -- who has not had a subpar season since his rookie year in 2009, according to ERA+ (which adjusts for park factors) -- slots nicely into a rotation that boasts a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, helping to make up for the loss of left-handers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill to free agency. Though Price was limited to 107 1/3 innings over 22 starts in 2019, he’s hoping that surgery to remove a cyst on his pitching wrist will allow him to increase his workload in ’20.

“I’m healthy right now,” Price said. “I plan on staying healthy. I want to get out there as many times as possible -- 30 starts, 33 starts, that’s what I’m used to. I know I haven’t been able to do that the past couple seasons, but that was the norm.”

Of course, there’s another key thing on their résumés that makes Betts and Price attractive to the Dodgers: World Series rings. Despite seven straight NL West titles and a pair of World Series appearances, a championship has eluded this core group in Los Angeles. That includes 2018, when Betts and Price celebrated the Red Sox’s World Series victory on the Dodgers’ field.

The hope is that Betts and Price can now be the final pieces of the puzzle in getting the Dodgers over that line, at long last.

“We can take it as a compliment, for sure,” Betts said. “But we don’t want to add any extra pressure. We’re coming here to play the same way we always do. ... Inside, we’re winners, we worked hard to get to where we are, and we’re just gonna bring it here.”

It is certainly tempting to think about how Betts and Price may fit into the Dodgers’ future beyond this season. In Price’s case, he could be around awhile, with three years remaining on his contract.

Betts is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Though he’s a potential candidate for a long-term contract extension, he is not ready to discuss that publicly just yet.

"Right now, I just got here -- still trying to find a house and those types of things," Betts said. "I'm not even really thinking about that. I'm just focused on staying with 2020 and going from there."