On Christmas Eve and the third night of Hanukkah, Mets fans received an additional present -- a gift standing 6 feet 8 inches tall.
Dellin Betances agreed to terms with the Yankees' cross-town rival Tuesday afternoon, signing a one-year deal to play in Queens in 2020. He has a player option for 2021 as well.
The 31-year-old had spent his entire career with the Bronx Bombers -- he was drafted by New York in 2006 out of high school (Grand Street Campus in Brooklyn) and worked his way up through the Yankees system before his debut in 2011. After brief big-league stints in 2011 and 2013, he burst on the scene officially in 2014, finishing third in the American League Rookie of the Year Award race.
From that point on, Betances was a force to be reckoned with in pinstripes -- you could legitimately argue he was the best reliever in all of baseball over that span. The right-hander pitched his way to four-consecutive All-Star Game appearances, leading all major league relievers in strikeouts in each year from 2014–2016.
The New York City native is the first reliever in baseball history to have 100 or more strikeouts in five consecutive seasons (2014–2018).
In 2019, however, injuries sidelined Betances for all but two-thirds of an inning. After a shoulder impingement in his throwing arm prior to the season, the lanky right-hander worked his way back to health before partially tearing his left achilles on September 15 in his regular-season debut.
For the Mets, who add Betances to a bullpen featuring Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia -- who have both previously led baseball in saves -- there is some risk involved. Like Diaz and Familia, Betances is years removed from the utter dominance that garnered his notoriety out of the bullpen. If those three can bounce back next season, combined with Seth Lugo as well as offseason-additions Brad Brach and Michael Wacha, the Mets may finally have the proper 'pen to compliment their stellar starting staff.
In the Bronx, however, not much changes for 2020 when it comes to who is in the bullpen.
Remember, Betances played less than one full inning last season. Even with him out for effectively the entire year, the Yanks' bullpen had the fifth-most strikeouts in all of baseball (750) and a top-ten cumulative ERA (4.08).
The days of the two-headed monster of Aroldis Chapman and Betances closing out games are long gone, but the Bombers were still one of the best in the game even without their 6-foot-8 flamethrower.
Bringing back Chapman, who elected not to opt out of his contract in early November, was critical in ensuring New York's 'pen would remain potent moving forward.
The southpaw was the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year in 2019, finishing the season with 37 saves (one shy of his career high).
Mix their dynamic closer in with a core of Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green -- all coming off solid, dependable seasons and accounting for a stable total of 315 innings pitched -- and New York is still set for next year. Not to mention the fact that ace Gerrit Cole will singlehandedly ease the bullpen's collective workload as he's poised to pitch late into games every fifth day.
Ultimately, the Yankees decided not to re-sign Betances. They could have extended a qualifying offer and attempted to bring back the right-hander for a ninth year, but they instead let him walk -- as they did with Didi Gregorius and Austin Romine, who both agreed to one-year deals with new clubs at the Winter Meetings.
Similar to why the Yankees chose not to re-sign Gregorius, who was also beloved by the Yankee faithful, the decisive duo of injuries and finances was too much of a deterrent. Bringing back Betances would have put New York even further over the luxury-tax threshold, investing $324 million on Cole was a clear priority for the front office and as good as he has been in the past, Betances is damaged goods at this point in time.
Shortly after Andy Martino of SNY broke the news of Betances' signing, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the reliever's deal was worth $10.5 million -- with incentives up to $13 million. After re-signing Brett Gardner on a one-year $12.5 million contract, and adding Cole's $36 million to the team's payroll each year for the next nine, Betances was simply the odd man out.
With this departure, evidently New York is confident that their current bullpen is strong enough to carry them through the regular season, sturdy enough to remain effective well into October.
The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in Milwaukee's Josh Hader, but the asking price for the southpaw that led all relievers in the strikeout department in 2019 (138) is sure to be in the stratosphere.
New York does have a bit of a surplus of under-30-year-old arms. Although they traded away former second-rated prospect Chance Adams to the Royals on Monday, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Holder, Jonathan Loaisiga, Stephen Tarpley and Jordan Montgomery -- among others -- remain on the 40-man roster.
With new pitching coach Matt Blake set to revitalize the Yankees' pitching department with his modern philosophy and foundation in analytics, the Bombers can plan to draw effective innings in relief from in-house. Should Domingo German be available in 2020, and J.A. Happ stay on the roster in the new year (with trade speculation looming), one can be used as a long reliever as well, as only one will be necessary to satisfy the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Either way, Yankees fans will be forced to get used to seeing Dellin Betances with an orange, loopy interlocked "NY" on his hat, rather a white one.
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