Yankees vs. Dellin Betances: A War No One Can Win


When the Yankees announced on Friday that they had settled on one-year deals with all of their arbitration-eligible players except for Dellin Betances, a cloud drifted over Yankee Stadium and the right field bullpen. The prospect of an arbitration hearing beginning soon means the two parties will do battle in a war that neither side can emerge from as a winner.

Reportedly, the Yankees and Dellin Betances are nowhere near each other in the salary proposals each side has made, and there could be as much as $2 million standing between them. Betances believes he is worth five million dollars for his service in 2017.

Significantly, this is not the first time the Yankees and Betances have gone to the mat about salary. Last season, Betances rejected the team’s offer of $540,000, causing a net loss for the player when the team, perhaps a little miffed, turned right around and reduced their offer to the major league minimum which Betances ultimately was forced to sign.

Without looking at any of the relevant numbers, which we’ll do in a minute, it would appear, at least on the surface that the Yankees have been rather generous in offering Betances a raise of 2.5 million dollars over what he made last year.

Should The Yankees Value Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances Equally

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To add more perspective, the $5 million Betances wants is just shy of the $5.1 million the Yanks decided to pay Didi Gregorius for the 2017 season. So the question begins to beg itself to be asked – is Betances worth as much to the team as Gregorius?

Or, here’s another one. Does he have double the value of Adam Warren? Betances and his agent will get the chance to prove that he is in a very short time.

Arbitration hearings are scheduled to take place Jan. 30 to Feb. 17. The player and club each present a case to a three-person panel, which then determines one figure or the other as the player’s salary. Salaries can be cut by up to 20 percent at arbitration hearings, though such cases are rare.

A settlement is a possibility, but not likely when the two sides are this far apart. Therefore, we can expect that Betances and his agent will argue something like this: “The team spent a ton of money to re-sign Aroldis Chapman, but what good can he do if no one can get the ball to him with a lead that was preserved by someone like myself. Plus, the team knows that if Chapman goes down, I am ready to step into his spot as closer.”

Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

And then the Yankees come back with, “Dellin, you’re good, but you are not five million good. Your ERA doubled last year from 2015, and you are giving up more hits than you used to. We can’t have you doing that, because if you continue in that mode, you’re right – we’ll never get the ball to Chapman”.

To be fair, though, his numbers last year were comparable to 2015, and a couple improved slightly as his strikeouts per inning increased, while his walks went down. But the fact remains that Betances believes the Yankees should pay him $4.5 million more than he earned last year. That’s quite a leap by any standard and for any team. And then, you have to get to the question of how much a set-up man is worth. Because at this rate, Betances is on his way to a payday of what – $8 million a year in a few seasons?

Either way, one side or the other is bound to emerge from this war wounded and perhaps permanently scarred for life. Yankees fans can only hope that Betances wins because he seems the type that could sulk his way through the season if he doesn’t. As mentioned before, this is two years in a row that the two sides have sparred over salary. The team “won” last year, and Betances is digging his heels in this year to prevent that from happening again.

The Yankees Should Win The Battle But At What Cost

But the way this looks now, Betances will need to blow the arbiters over to get the five million. At the moment, Baseball Reference compares him to the following list of “similar” players at this point in his career: (explained here)

Compare Stats to Similars

Akinori Otsuka (963)
Ken Giles (959)
Jonny Venters (956)
Cy Acosta (944)
Takashi Saito (944)
Tyler Thornburg (944)
Nick Vincent (940)
Joe Berry (940)
Jeremy Jeffress (939)
A.J. Ramos (939)

Which makes the next question, even more, pressing, “Who the hell are these guys?”

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Nevertheless, there will be a decision one way or the other. That’s the way these hearings go. But if I were Dellin Betances, I believe I’d be looking for a deal somewhere closer to the Yankees offer with maybe a bit more to spare to save face. And then, I’d go out there and pitch my butt off, knowing that next year I’ll be in the same position again. Only that time, I’ll be able to make them an offer they can’t refuse.