Who is Mookie Betts? Markus Lynn “Mookie” Betts (born October 7, 1992) is an American professional baseball fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played in MLB for the Boston Red Sox. … He became the Red Sox midfielder in 2014, before moving to right field in 2016.
The Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a 12-year extension with outfielder Mookie Betts that will guarantee him $365 million. The deal coincides with the midpoint between two key dates: 1) when the Dodgers acquired Betts in a February trade with the Boston Red Sox, and 2) when they could have lost him to the free-agent market of the winter.
With Betts now speaking and the start of the regular season just hours away, this is an opportune time to give a refresher course on the upcoming free-agent class. Below are four storylines worth knowing and following in the coming months.
- Realmuto is now number 1
It remains to be seen whether or not the Philadelphia Phillies have catcher J.T. Realmuto. Recent reports suggest that the two sides have held preliminary talks, but that no deal is imminent. The Phillies have plenty of time and incentive (ahem, keep Bryce Harper happy) to get something done before the winter, so there’s no need to panic yet.
Should Realmuto reach the open market, he will almost certainly be the top player on our board. How could he not be? He’s a top-quality backstop who won’t be 29 until March. Realmuto makes a quality contribution on both sides of the ball, in addition to earning a 115 OPS+ over the past three seasons, he has worked to become an above-average receiver. It also has one of the strongest arms in the position, making it a great deterrent to basestealers.
Apart from a possible injury, there is not much else that can prevent Realmuto from cashing in at some point for the next six to eight months.
- Quality stops on offer
Realmuto is not the only prominent player from the middle who has a free agency. Both Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons are 20-year-old free agents, meaning games between the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels teams will provide plenty of scouting opportunities.
We start with Semien, who finished third in the AL MVP voting last fall after homering 33 times and posting a 138 OPS+. The main question here is how much of his power outage is real? His .237 ISO last season blew out his previous career-high of .197. Outside of those two years, he’s never had an ISO higher than .150.
Semien improved his output speed to a personal best (88.9), but that figure is much closer to the league average (88.2) than the total of the home run would suggest. He also showed growth in other ways: he cut his strikeout percentage for a third consecutive season, and he did so while walking with a career-high clip (over 11 percent). Even if Semien doesn’t present himself as a 30-homer hitting forward, he has plenty to do to make up for it.
Describing Simmons as the opposite of Semien would be unfair: Semien has improved defensively and Simmons has had good offensive seasons – last year wasn’t one of them. Meanwhile, the book about him is on the fourth edition: he is an elite shortstop and a skilled bat-handler, because it literally makes contact; He’s just not a safe bet to do much else with the stick.
Quality shortstops at both (or both) ends will never want to work. Expect Semien and Simmons to be in high demand this winter.
- Springer, LeMahieu lead other notable batters
But wait, there could be more high-quality offense available this winter.
The odds are against everyone from George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, Joc Pederson, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Turner, Nelson Cruz and so on, to achieve a free service and/or be as attractive as they seem now. Some of them will come through and remain marketable for contenders who are looking for a little extra in the run production department.
- Plenty of intriguing starters
Unless you thought we’d forgotten the pitching …
There’s no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg in the class this year. Instead, there are a number of starters who can appeal to teams as a solid to strong No.2 or No.3.
That group includes in no particular order James Paxton, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor and Trevor Bauer. And that’s without mentioning any other intriguing veterans, like Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi or even Garrett Richards.
This season will make a big contribution to working out that group, but there is reason to believe that teams after the poor will have choices.
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