As was expected by many, reliever Dellin Betances lost his arbitration case on Saturday so instead of earning $5 million in 2017, he will earn $3 million. What happened afterward was quite unexpected. Yankees president Randy Levine ripped into Betances following the hearing and said that his request for $5 million “had no bearing in reality.”
“It’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut,’ Levine said. “I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer, at least based on the statistics, not whether he could or couldn’t be.”
This is clear — Betances has been one of the best relievers in the MLB over the past three years. Since 2014, Betances leads all relievers with an 8.5 fWAR, had the 8th best ERA at 1.93, and had the by far more strikeouts than anybody with 392 (Andrew Miller is 66 Ks behind in the same span). In that span, he has been the team’s most durable reliever, often pitching more than one inning at a time and coming in no matter the situation. He might have been a middle reliever, but baseball recognized his ability when it named him an All-Star three times in his first three years.
None of that mattered because Betances only picked up 22 saves. He’s not, “a closer.”
“Even though I disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision, I was planning on putting everything behind me until I was aware of Randy Levine’s comments,” Betances said at a press conferences Saturday. “They take me in a room and trash me for about an hour and a half. I thought that was unfair for me. Especially I feel like I’ve done a lot for this organization. In these last three years I’ve taken the ball time after time. Whenever they needed for me I was there for them. I never said no. I feel like this whole process was unfair. We tried to come to a middle ground and nothing really happened.”
Now the Yankees have put themselves in a situation where their best homegrown reliever since Mariano Rivera doesn’t feel respected and doesn’t want to be here. Brian Cashman pretty much has to begin exploring trade possibilities because Betances will leave as soon as he can. All over $2 million.
It’s hard to blame him. Betances would be a closer on 25 other teams in the league and the Yankees are lucky enough to have him as a middle reliever. During this time, they’ve never really given him a shot to close, but he’s never complained. He didn’t complain when they went out and signed Miller, traded for Chapman, or re-signed Chapman. Of course not because he was a team player. Well that’s out the window now. I doubt we can expect him to pitch more than an inning at a time anymore too because why bother risk an injury for a team that he knows will never pay him what he’s worth.
So the Yankees saved $2 million today. They cost themselves the loyalty of a homegrown talent and one of the best relievers in baseball. I hope it was worth it.
“Dellin didn’t have that record,” Levine said. “He never did. He’s a great, elite setup man. Maybe one day he’ll be an elite closer, we hope so.”
It just won’t be for the Yankees.