The Yankees and reliever Dellin Betances entered their arbitration hearing Friday in agreement that the right-hander should not be treated like a closer, a source told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, but they weren’t able to find common ground elsewhere. The club argued that Betances didn’t deserve more than the $3MM it had offered because, for one, he had lost a battle for the closer’s job to then-Yankee Andrew Miller in 2015, per the source. New York also pointed to Betances’ defensive woes – he committed three throwing errors and allowed a 100 percent success rate on 21 stolen base attempts last season – and even placed some blame on him for a decline in ticket sales in 2016.
After the Yankees traded Miller to Cleveland on July 31, Betances took over as the Bombers’ closer and followed a pristine August with a rough September. Betances allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits and eight walks over the final full month of the season, during which the Yankees went 14-14 and officially fell out of the playoff race. The Yankees argued that Betances’ problems down the stretch helped lead to losses, thereby aiding in their drop from first in American League ticket sales from 2002-15 to second a year ago. As preposterous as that sounds, the Yankees nonetheless managed to defeat Betances in the hearing.
The two sides’ dispute took a particularly ugly turn when team president Randy Levine sparked a war of words after the Yankees’ victory. Here’s more on their fight:
- Dating back to his breakout season in 2014, Betances has tossed 247 innings – at least 14 more than any other major league reliever. However, in light of Levine’s comments, Betances suggested Saturday that he might not be as willing to serve as a workhorse for the Yankees anymore. “Some of the stuff they said in that room, they value me as an eighth-inning guy. Is it selfish of me to say now, ‘Hey, guys, I just want to come in for the eighth inning with no runners on?’’’ Betances told reporters, including George A. King III of the New York Post. “That’s not the player I am. I go out there and try to battle with my teammates, but now you go in that room and you see some of that stuff, do you put yourself at risk at all times? It’s fair for me to say that.’’ One of Betances’ friends and teammates, left-hander C.C. Sabathia, chalked Betances’ comments up to the “heat of the moment,” telling King that the 28-year-old “is a smart kid and will be able to separate this and try to help this team win games.’’
- Given what transpired between the Yankees and Betances on Saturday, it’s time for Major League Baseball to at least change the arbitration process for relievers, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Although the industry no longer regards saves as the end-all, be-all when valuing relievers, arbiters continue to place too much emphasis on the statistic. In addition to leading all relievers in innings since 2014, Betances is third in strikeout rate and fifth in ERA, yet one obvious reason he lost in arbitration is because he only has 22 career saves. Rosenthal proposes developing a statistical model to replace the current arbitration system, which features a panel of judges and has been in place since 1974, though he concedes that major changes probably aren’t coming.
- Nicolas Stellini of FanGraphs offers a sentiment similar to Rosenthal’s view, arguing that arbitration’s opinion of relievers is “bad for baseball” because it doesn’t properly reward great production from non-closers. Thus, elite setup men like Betances who aren’t on long-term deals have little incentive to overwork themselves before securing sizable paydays. As for Levine, Stellini observes that he “handicapped the franchise for no obvious gain.”