LOS ANGELES — Mookie Betts and David Price finally turned up in Dodgers jerseys on Wednesday, completing the journey from Boston to Los Angeles, where they're expected to help end a World Series title drought dating to 1988.
Neither seemed fazed by the trade that dragged out for over a week before it was finalized.
Betts described the waiting game as “fun at times, kind of stressful at times.” Price said being moved from one storied franchise to another was “something special.”
“It wasn't as easy for us,” joked Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations. “It was definitely a roller coaster.”
Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, joins current NL MVP Cody Bellinger in the Dodgers' outfield. Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner, joins three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in the starting rotation.
“Definitely going to be pretty special,” Betts said. “He's going to put on a show and I'll do my best to keep up with him.”
Friedman sees the 2020 Dodgers as “quite possibly our most talented team.”
Betts was traded for the first time in his career. The 27-year-old right fielder was drafted by the Red Sox in 2011 and made his big-league debut three years later.
“I have a lot of memories in Boston. The most fun is the World Series,” he said, alluding to the 2018 title won by the Red Sox at Dodger Stadium. “That was a great chapter in my life.”
Price said, “I know it's tough for Red Sox nation to see Mookie leave.”
Friedman first discussed trading for Betts with then-Boston counterpart Dave Dombrowski last July. But then the Red Sox won several games in a row and ended the talks. Things heated up again in the fall.
A casualty of the deal that brought Betts and Price to the Dodgers was another one that would have sent outfielder Joc Pederson and right-hander Ross Stripling to the rival Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo. It didn't happen.
“Our thing was putting ourselves in the best position to acquire the two guys we acquired,” Friedman said. “That had a lot of different combinations and a lot of different things that were potentials. The way it ended up playing out we're happy with.”
Betts can become a free agent after the season. He brushed off a question on whether he would discuss a contract extension during the season.
“We're hoping that he falls in love with the team, the city, the fans, and wants to be here for a long time,” Friedman said.
Friedman has admired Price since he was in Tampa Bay's front office and the team selected the pitcher with the first pick in the 2007 draft.
Friedman joked that he's had his eye on Betts from afar for so long he “may want to get a restraining order against me.”
“He embodies everything that we really value about a position player — the impact he has on defence, the instincts on the bases, in the batter's box,” Friedman said.
Another big factor was the positive things teammates and those who have dealt with Betts said about him. “He would blush if he heard all the nice things,” Friedman said.
Both players said they look forward to getting to know their new teammates.
“Those relationships translate to in between the lines and that's when you see a team really become a team, and that's how you win a World Series,” Betts said.
The players were introduced at Dodger Stadium before catching an evening flight to Arizona, where the team opens spring training Thursday. Beyond Betts and Price in centre field, construction crews worked on the outfield pavilions where a major renovation project is underway. They were led on a brief tour.
Betts wore a hoodie under his jersey, explaining it protected his head from the winter sun on a 67 degree day.
Betts will keep his No. 50 jersey, a number chosen long ago because “nobody wants it," he said.
“I'd like to celebrate again here in this jersey for sure,” he said.
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