Dellin Betances hasn’t signed on the dotted line for any of the other 29 clubs just yet, but all indications are that he won’t return to the Bronx next season. For shame. I don’t know anyone who wants to see Betances go. Assuredly everyone wants Dellin to come back strong in 2020, so why can’t that be with the Yankees? A number of things may have led to the point of no return.
A testy relationship
It takes two to tango, and maybe the Yankees are interested in a reunion but Betances isn’t. As you likely recall, he and the Yankees had an ugly arbitration hearing back in 2017. Further, the Yankees never told him about an asymptomatic bone spur in his shoulder that they discovered long ago.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too pleased if my employer disparaged me and withheld information from me. That has to be a pretty difficult thing to overcome. That said, there’s more to Betances’ relationship with the Yankees than merely his rapport with the front office. In particular, Randy Levine directly drew Dellin’s ire. Not his teammates, not any of his coaches, nor any fans. He’s extremely popular in the clubhouse and that likely means something to Dellin.
Plus, the towering righty is a born-and-raised New Yorker. He was born in Washington Heights, grew up a Yankees fan, went to school in the city, and was drafted by the Yankees right out of high school. Could he reunite with Joe Girardi in Philly? Sure, it’s not that far away from home. There’s always the crosstown Mets, too. But I’d personally like to think he wants to remain a Yankee. Maybe that’s wishful thinking.
Payroll and Luxury Tax Implications
Bobby put together a post about the Yankees’ payroll situation last week. The gist: the Yankees are just over $260 million in actual dollars next year, though that’s not quite as high for luxury tax purposes. At the moment, the Bombers are on the brink of the third and highest tier of the competitive balance tax threshold, something ownership clearly would prefer to avoid.
So, without moves to shed salary (i.e. JA Happ), the Yankees may not be able to stomach re-signing Betances. We’ve already seen how it essentially precluded them from retaining Didi Gregorius.
Fangraphs’ crowdsourcing projected a two year, $18 million deal for Betances. At face value, that’s $9 million per year. However, it’s really closer to a $13 million impact factoring in the luxury tax. It would also push back the Yankees’ top pick in next year’s amateur draft ten places. That’s something the Yankees are able to afford, but perhaps it’s not a line they’re willing to cross.
The good news is that Betances didn’t need surgery to repair his achilles after the season. Since it was a partial tear, his recovery should be quicker and allow him to be ready for spring training. Still, the Yankees may be wary about his effectiveness — and not just because of his achilles. Betances opened the season on the injured list with a lat strain, but experienced setbacks throughout his recovery. Namely, a lat strain in early June that stopped his return in its tracks.
When Betances finally returned for one game in September, his velocity wasn’t there. He maxed out at 94.9 miles per hour, a far cry from his heater typically around 98 MPH in the past. Is that enough to scare the Yankees away? He admitted his arm strength still wasn’t all the way back and is a notoriously slow starter in terms of velocity.
Whether or not a velocity concern is legitimate; Betances’ age (32 in March), workload, offseason rehabilitation, and shoulder woes that plagued 2019 may just be too much risk for the Yankees to continue the relationship.
Ultimately, whatever the Yankees’ justifications may be, letting Betances go would stink. I’m still holding out hope for a reunion, but I can’t say I feel very good about it. The Yankees have already lost enough fan favorites this winter in CC Sabathia and Didi Gregorius, and I’d really rather not have to see another one go.