The arbitration process between the Yankees and their star reliever Dellin Betances got quite heated on Saturday when the two sides convened for the hearing.
Betances is undeniably one of the best relief pitchers in the world. He is a three-time All-Star and led the majors last year with 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings, all the while posting an impressive 3.08 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 73 innings last season. However, Betances is a victim of his circumstance. On pretty much any other team, he would undoubtedly be the team’s closer. On the Yankees, Betances is relegated to setup duty.
Last season he was stuck behind Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for closing duties, and only when they were shipped out did he start finishing games for the Yankees. Now, Chapman is back in the fold after signing a five-year $85 million deal in the offseason, and is expected to once again be the team’s closer.
With arbitration approaching, this was bad news for Betances. Instead of the $5 million Betances was seeking, he was only awarded $3 million for the upcoming season. This was still a record-high figure for a setup man in his first year of arbitration, but Betances precociousness apparently angered Yankees President Randy Levine. Following the hearing he held a press conference to offer his thoughts on the matter.
Levine accused Betances’ agents at Excel Sports Management of trying to use Betances to “change the marketplace” for setup relievers by rewarding them with salaries suited for closers. Levine added that would be like him claiming “I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut.”
Not to be outdone, Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, spoke with Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal to offer his opinion on Levine’s press conference.
“[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.”
However, Murray did not stop there. Levine’s behavior clearly rubbed Betances and his camp the wrong way.
“With regards to Dellin, it was very ironic to hear the Yankees’ president express his love and affection when he spent the only portion of the hearing, to which he contributed to, was calling this player by the wrong first name. It is Dellin, for the record. He then proceeded to blame Dellin for the Yankees’ declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history while trying to bully the panel, saying something to the effect that the sky will fall if they rule for the player.”
Murray also made a particular reference to the fact that he really only had this difficulty with Levine, and that Yankees GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman were much more amicable in their negotiations.
“The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy. He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.
“Nonetheless, as Dellin has done throughout his career, he will continue to be a professional and an outstanding member of the community no matter how the Team President values him.”
Despite the promise that Betances will maintain his professionalism, Yankees fans might still want to avert their eyes before scrolling further. When asked his opinion on the situation, Betances hinted that when free agency finally does come around he won’t soon forget Levine’s behavior.
"You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes." – Dellin Betances
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 18, 2017