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Mookie Betts is proof of why teams should invest in superstars

When the Los Angeles Dodgers made a trade to acquire Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox in February 2020, they immediately buckled down and signed him to a 12-year, $365 million in July 2020 to ensure his future in Los Angeles.

Since joining the Dodgers, Betts has continued a Hall of Fame trajectory as a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, batting .286/.376/.549 in 479 games with an incredible .926 OPS, 148 OPS+, 118 home runs and 297 RBI. He has finished second in MVP voting twice, and won three Silver Slugger awards along with a pair of Gold Glove awards. Since his debut in 2014 with the Red Sox he has regularly been one of the best players in all of baseball and has a career 64.8 WAR.

There is no question that Betts is an incredible player, and his torrid start to the 2024 season is further evidence and a reminder that teams need to make the effort to invest in superstars for their team.

In eight games to begin the 2024 season, Betts is 15-for-38 with 14 runs scored, three doubles, a triple, and five home runs along with 11 RBI. He also sports a 1.772 OPS which is the highest for any player since former Dodgers first baseman in 2015, and the seventh highest through eight games since 1901 per MLB.com’s Sarah Langs.

He leads the league in all the categories mentioned aside from doubles but also leads the league with eight walks entering Wednesday. He currently sports a mind-boggling 353 OPS+ and 323 wRC+ to go along with a 1.4 WAR per FanGraphs and 8.3 WAR per Baseball Reference. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections also have Betts on pace to finish 2024 with a .287 batting average, 32 home runs, 112 RBI, 12 stolen bases, a .930 OPS and a 6.1 WAR. All of these early factors in the small sample size place him as a favorite to win his second career MVP.

What makes Betts’ success so incredible is considering the level of talent he plays with. When hitters like Freddie Freeman and Shohei Ohtani hitting behind him in the lineup, Betts is consistently in a position to make the rest of his team better. Batters 3-6 in the lineup are slashing .347/.430/.562 with 27 RBI and that is partly thanks to Betts getting on base and putting them in clutch situations to drive in runs.

Out of the leadoff spot, Betts is able to put his impeccable plate discipline to use. In eight games he has struck out just four times against the eight walks. While he isn’t lighting up the basepaths, he is still a threat to swipe 10 or more bags in a season. Generating runs in any way possible is a valuable trait for any player, especially for an elite player like Betts.

At 31 years old, Betts is still showing signs of getting better at a time when players who have been in the league for 11 years begin to show signs of decline. Not only has Betts continued to stave off the decay of his play, but is actively progressing and leaving the impression that we still haven’t seen the final form of his ability as a player.

Perhaps what makes him so valuable as well is his defensive versatility. In need of an infielder, the Dodgers turned to Betts to return to his original position in the infield at second base when then turned into playing shortstop every day. After years of Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield, Betts is now getting a chance to show off his infielder skills on a regular basis. So far things are going well as he has 3 DRS in 73 innings and just a single error. He’s not the elite defensive player in the premiere position, but he is still a reliable option that can get the job done with no worries.

While the Dodgers are going to continually spend money to chase down a championship with the best players available, outbidding everyone in sight, Betts is the type of player who could lead a team on his own without the additional superstars. The Dodgers saw an opportunity and made a splash that has paid off huge dividends for them in the long run. They traded away some arguably middle-of-the-road prospects for a generational Hall of Famer in the prime of his career and then locked him up for the long term.

There is always a risk when it comes to signing superstar talent. Some teams overpay for players past their time, while also don’t offer enough during their prime. However, the teams that show a willingness to commit to high-quality superstars instead of constantly pinching pennies are going to see more success. If there is a clear upgrade to obtain, teams have to pay due diligence in pursuing that player. It’s great to see teams lock up young stars in the making. It’s great to see teams make an effort to invest in great players rather than standing idly by and hoping their fifth-round draft pick pans out. There shouldn’t have been a single team not throwing their hat into the ring in 2020 to acquire Betts from the Red Sox, and yet the Dodgers were able to scoop him up easily.

As much as many fans loathe the Dodgers’ approach to roster building, one can’t help but respect that they understand that in order to build the best roster, you have to acquire the best tools to get it done. Betts’ 2024 will be more proof of how important it is to invest in superstar talent.






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