Relief pitcher Dellin Betances has decided to retire, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. The 34-year-old is apparently hanging up his cleats after a career wherein he pitched in parts of ten seasons with the Yankees and Mets. He had been with the Dodgers’ organization on a minor league deal this year.
Selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2006 draft, Betances was a starting pitcher in his first few years as a professional. However, command issues and various injuries eventually pushed Betances into more relief work as he moved up the ranks. He made just one MLB start, which came back in 2011.
The move to the bullpen ended up working out fabulously for both Betances and the Yankees, starting with a tremendous breakout in 2014. Though he had just 7 2/3 innings of MLB experience coming into that year, he ended up throwing 90 innings over 70 relief appearances during that campaign. He registered an ERA of just 1.40, along with an incredible 39.6% strikeout rate, 7% walk rate and 46.6% ground ball rate. He finished third in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year award, trailing only Jose Abreu and Matt Shoemaker.
That will arguably go down as Betances’ best season, though he was still an incredibly effective reliever for the next four years. In a five-year run beginning with that 2014 season and running through 2018, he threw 374 innings, an average of almost 75 per season. He logged a combined 2.21 ERA in that time, striking out a whopping 40.4% of batters faced, though walking 10.7% of them, and getting grounders on 48.1% of balls in play. He racked up 11.3 wins above replacement during that stretch, according to FanGraphs, which was third among all relievers in baseball, trailing only Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. He made the All-Star team in four consecutive seasons, beginning with that 2014 campaign.
Unfortunately, that five-year run of dominance has been followed by a four-year run of frustration, largely due to injuries. In 2019, he began the year on the injured list due to a shoulder impingement. He wasn’t able to make his season debut until September, but tore his achilles tendon during that game after just 2/3 of an inning.
In spite of losing essentially that entire season, Betances hit free agency as a highly-touted reliever based on his previous track record. He agreed to a contract with the Mets that paid him $7.5MM in 2020, along with a $6MM player option for 2021 that came with a $3MM buyout. He ended up getting into 15 games with the Mets that year but struggled mightily. He registered a 7.71 ERA in that time, with his velocity noticeably diminished and his strikeout rate significantly lowered. He also walked 20.3% of batters faced in that short time. He was placed on the injured list due to a lat strain at the end of August and couldn’t return. After that showing, he decided to trigger his $6MM player option instead of returning to free agency. He threw just one inning for the Mets that year, which came in one April 7 appearance that will ultimately go down as his last appearance in the majors. He went on the IL with a shoulder impingement, eventually requiring season-ending surgery. His contract also came with a vesting option for 2022, where Betances would have a $1MM player option if he pitched in 50 games in 2021, which he came nowhere near.
After returning to free agency, he signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers for 2022. Though he hadn’t been effective for a few years, the Dodgers were willing to take a chance to see if he could recover any of his previous form. If he cracked the majors, he would have earned $2.75MM with further incentives available. Unfortunately, he logged a 10.26 ERA in 16 2/3 minor league innings this year, walking 16.5% of the batters he faced. After yet another frustrating sequence of events, it seems Betances had decided to walk away.
Despite the disappointing results of the past few seasons, Betances will surely be remembered for that five-year run in pinstripes where he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the world. He spent five full seasons striking fear into the hearts of opposing teams and their fans whenever he stepped to the mound. He finishes his career with 394 1/3 innings pitched in 374 games. He’ll go down in the record books with a 2.53 ERA, 36 saves, 121 holds and 633 strikeouts. We at MLBTR congratulate Betances on an excellent career and we wish him the best in his post-playing endeavors.