4:47pm: Rick Shapiro, an executive from the players union who argued on Betances’ behalf at his arbitration hearing, has also condemned Levine’s comments, Rosenthal reports. “For the president of the Yankees to say the things he said is totally unprecedented in salary-arbitration history, an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball,” says Shapiro. “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
1:19pm: Betances’ head agent, Jim Murray, wrote to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about Levine’s comments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Murray expressed anger about Levine’s decision to speak to the media about Betances’ situation.
“[W]e are not going to be bullied by the Yankees team president. His statements are reprehensible and outright false. His desire to conduct a press conference today amounts to nothing but grandstanding and trying to mislead the media,” Murray says.
“This guy was a 3-time All-Star. He is a unique pitcher that the arbitration system had never seen. He is about as unique as they come. We all knew it was going to be a landmark decision because of what this player has done.”
Betances, for his part, says the situation will make him more inclined to head elsewhere once he becomes a free agent following the 2020 season, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. “You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes,” says Betances.
11:06am: Earlier today, it emerged that righty Dellin Betances had lost his arbitration hearing to the Yankees, meaning he will receive $3MM next season rather than the $5MM he had hoped for. Now, Yankees president Randy Levine is criticizing Betances and his representation at Excel Sports Management for what he describes as a “half-baked attempt” to “use a player to change a well-established market,” as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes (all Twitter links). The hitch was that the best-paid relievers are typically closers, and Betances’ experience in that role is limited. Betances’ $5MM filing number had “had no bearings in reality,” Levine says.
“It’s like me saying, I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut. I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer,” Levine adds.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that there’s “bad blood” between Betances and the Yankees going back to last season, when the Yankees renewed Betances’ salary for the league minimum of $507K despite Betances’ strong performances to that point.
Sherman reports that Betances tried to get the Yankees to negotiate on an extension this offseason, but the Yankees didn’t go particularly far in pursuing the matter. Betances also tried to get the team to settle on a salary for this season, but the two sides disagreed so thoroughly on what Betances should be paid that they instead went to a hearing without much serious discussion.
The basis of the Yankees’ disagreement is that arbitrators generally don’t reward non-closers with big salaries, and that arbitration salaries are mostly based on precedent. Betances briefly closed for the Yankees near the end of last season but didn’t do nearly as well as he’d done in a setup role. Sherman reports that, during the arbitration hearing, the Yankees argued that Betances didn’t have the high saves totals needed to justify a $5MM salary for a first-timer through the arbitration process, and that his struggles down the stretch (he had a 4.30 ERA with 38 strikeouts, 15 walks, and 12 saves in 23 innings following the trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs) were a factor in their reacquiring Chapman this winter. The Yankees in fact felt that even $3MM was too high a salary for Betances at this point but submitted that figure anyway to make it easier to win the hearing.
Over the last several seasons, MLBTR’s yearly Arbitration Trackers in fact demonstrate scant precedent for a salary of $5MM for a setup man with three-plus years of service. It’s worth noting, however, that Betances has mostly dominated throughout his career, posting a 2.16 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and a ridiculous 14.3 K/9 in parts of five seasons. Those numbers make it difficult to find exact comparables for Betances. Heading into the offseason, MLBTR projected Betances would receive $3.4MM this offseason.