Well, we made it.
After nine excruciating months without a baseball game that counts, the Yankees and Nationals and Giants and Dodgers will kick off the truncated 2020 season Thursday night.
The Dodgers, however, couldn’t wait another 24 hours to make some headlines.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers dropped a bomb when they announced they had signed Mookie Betts to a 12-year contract extension that will keep the star outfielder in Los Angeles through 2032. The contract – which will start in 2021 – will pay Betts a whopping $365 million, making him the second-highest paid player in the game behind Mike Trout.
Negotiations on a long-term deal began back in March, but when the season was put on hold the two sides elected to do the same with the talks. Things picked back up a week ago, and they were able to cross the finish line Wednesday.
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While the Dodgers knew they only had Betts under contract for one season when they traded for him in February, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he never viewed the former MVP as a rental.
“When we made the trade, we did it with more than 2020 in mind,” said Friedman. “We appreciate the risk that came with that and did go into it with our eyes wide open. We traded a lot of talent away, we got a lot of talent back. Now we’re going to kind of keep the band together for a while, that was front of mind for us.”
Betts will turn 28 in October, so the back-end of the contract has the potential to look ugly as he nears his 40th birthday. However, the Dodgers have little concern for that at this point. The odds are good that Betts will continue to be a superstar for the next several years as the organization tries to end a 31-year World Series drought.
At the end of spring training, the Mets were hit with the unfortunate news that Noah Syndergaard needed Tommy John surgery. As summer camp wraps up, their pitching staff has been dealt another blow.
On Wednesday, Marcus Stroman was placed on the injured list after being diagnosed with a torn left calf. Stroman suffered the injury earlier in summer camp and tests revealed the bad news.
Manager Luis Rojas referred to Stroman as “week-to-week” when speaking to reporters. That’s obviously a vague timetable, but it’s probably fair to assume he will be on the shelf for several weeks.
“Man, it’s really unfortunate,” Rojas said. “Stro put in a lot of work and he brought such great shape, and it was really exciting to have the five guys here ready to go right before the season started. He’s grinding through it.”
The Mets haven’t decided – or at least haven’t revealed their decision – who will take Stroman’s spot in the rotation. Erasmo Ramirez will be on the taxi squad, which would seem to push Corey Oswalt and/or David Peterson to the front of the line. The club could also just go with a collection of relievers in the fifth spot, which would seemingly be easier to do with expanded rosters. Perhaps an arm will shake free after teams finalize their rosters Thursday. Seth Lugo will remain in the bullpen.
Stroman closed strong for the Mets after being a surprise acquisition at the trade deadline last season and, by all accounts, was looking terrific in spring training and in summer camp. His already-shortened walk year has now been further reduced. Fantasy leaguers who drafted him might not be able to afford to wait on his return, depending on how many IL spots they have.
Dozier Diagnosed with COVID-19
One of the few bright spots on a 103-loss Royals team last season was the emergence of Hunter Dozier. Unfortunately, the club will have to begin the 2020 campaign without him.
Dozier was placed on the injured list Wednesday and revealed that he tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m disappointed, to say the least," Dozier said in a statement. "I have been hit with a couple of symptoms that go with the virus, so I need to follow our medical team’s direction, get well and then work on getting back on the field. It’s disheartening because I felt things were going well on the field and I have a good feeling about the ballclub we have. To have to watch for whatever period of time that I’m out is going to painful.”
The Royals have been hit relatively hard by the virus, as Dozier is the sixth player known to have tested positive. Brad Keller, Jakob Junis and Ryan O’Hearn are among those six and also had been in line to play a prominent role with the big club.
Bubba Starling homered again in Wednesday’s loss to the Cardinals to cap off a monster showing during spring training and summer camp. It’s possible that will earn him a decent number of at-bats in right field while Dozier is away, although Starling’s underwhelming minor league track record and poor showing in the majors last season surely give the Royals pause.
New acquisition Franchy Cordero started in right field Wednesday and is the most intriguing option to pick up extra at-bats. Cordero has been plagued by injuries the last couple years and has major contact issues. However, he has some speed and also some of the best raw power in the game. It would make sense for the Royals to use this opportunity to see what they have in the 25-year-old, and fantasy players are certainly rooting for it.
American League Quick Hits: Angels manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday that Anthony Rendon (oblique) will not be in the Opening Day lineup and could miss a "couple" games. The team has not yet decided whether they will place Rendon on the injured list … Mike Trout on Wednesday confirmed that he will not opt out this season and fully plans to play … Royals manager Mike Matheny announced Wednesday that Brady Singer will start the club's second regular season game Saturday versus the Indians … Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday that the team is "still working through" whether DJ LeMahieu (COVID-19) will be ready for Opening Day … Jamie Campbell of Sportsnet has reported that the Blue Jays plan to activate Nate Pearson on July 29. That's the cutoff for gaining an additional year of team control … Tom Murphy will begin the season on the injured list after tests revealed a broken bone in his left foot. Austin Nola will catch for the Mariners while Murphy is out … Byron Buxton (foot) worked out at the Twins' alternate training site Wednesday and was able to up the intensity. He’s expected to join the team for their season-opening series in Chicago … The White Sox placed Nomar Mazara on the injured list Wednesday for undisclosed reasons … Jake Odorizzi (back) will begin the season on the injured list but could be back next week … Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday that there's a "really good chance" John Means (arm) will be ready to pitch the second series of the season against the Marlins.
National League Quick Hits: Braves manager Brian Snitker said Wednesday that Austin Riley will start at third base on Opening Day. The decision was made easy with Johan Camargo (hamstring) banged up, and the skipper said he will give both players starts at the position … Anthony Rizzo (back) went 2-for-3 with a homer in his return to the lineup on Wednesday … Ryan Braun (back, oblique, neck) went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in exhibition play Wednesday in his return to action. He is expected to be on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster … Zack Wheeler is slated to make his Phillies debut Saturday versus the Marlins and will not miss any starts after his wife gave birth Monday … Christian Walker (groin) did not travel with the Diamondbacks to San Diego ahead of this weekend's series versus the Padres, but he could join them Thursday … Keone Kela revealed Wednesday that he's on the injured list due to a positive COVID-19 test. Kyle Crick is the favorite to fill in at closer … Kris Bryant was scratched from the Cubs' Wednesday exhibition game against the Brewers due to back stiffness. He’s expected to be fine … The Cardinals released Brett Cecil on Wednesday … The Mets signed Brian Dozier to a minor league contract.