Mets reliever Dellin Betances has not pitched effectively (2021 Spring Training included) since 2018. Will he ever be that dominant again?
Almost as an afterthought, the Mets improved 2021 bullpen includes Dellin Betances. Once a knockout-punch reliever with the Yankees, Betances completed the 2018 season with an astounding 115 strikeouts in only 66 innings pitched.
At a towering 6’8″ 265lb presence on the mound, Betances scared the bedevil out of American League batters as they stood in the on-deck circle anticipating that devastating slider that dived off the plate to right-hand hitters or swings and misses to lefties as the ball sunk beneath their bat.
Beset with injury, Betances retired only two batters in 2019, both with strikeouts of course, and whereupon the Yankees granted him free agency.
In those pre-Steve Cohen days and the midst of a flailing Mets organization, Betances accepted a two-year $13.5 million contract with the team that includes minimal financial options for both sides in 2022.
Mets Betances Signing Cannot Erase The Past
It’s not only the recent injuries that have held Betances back, though, because some things from the past are not easily forgotten or dismissed.
In 2017, during the formative years of his career, it was an incident that set Betances back more than any physical ailment and surgery.
It was then that Dellin Betances became entangled in an arbitration battle with the Yankees in which he was directly confronted Yankee’s President Randy Levine.
Levine, not Betances, made a mountain out of a molehill when Betances lost his arbitration case when, after asking for $5 million, he was granted only three million by the arbitrator.
The New York Times that reported Levine as saying when he (needlessly) chimed in:
“It’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees; I’m an astronaut,’” Levine said. “No, I’m not an astronaut, and Dellin Betances is not a closer.”Billy Witz, New York Times
No one on the Yankees ever confronted Levine, and the affront stood unchallenged but never forgotten by Dellin Betances.
To get some perspective, what if Steve Cohen were to say, “Michael Conforto is a pawn of Scott Boras and there’s no way I’m going to pay him $250 million until he proves he’s worth that kind of money.” Highly unlikely, but you see the point.
For The Mets, That Was Then This Is Now??
This is not to dismiss the physical setbacks Betances has gone through since then, but once bitten, twice shy, and therefore a cause to wonder if those confidence-bending moments still affect him today.
Because presumed to healthy, Betances’ 2021 Mets Spring Training stats (below) give cause to wonder if he still “has it” – and if he doesn’t – what benefit is there for the Mets to include him in their plans for what is hoped and expected to be a breakout season for the team and franchise?
All spring training stats, by definition, are sparse and inconclusive.
But the fact is that Betances could have, perhaps should have, reversed those numbers to show that without a doubt – “I’m back” – and you (the Mets) need to reckon with that because “I’m reclaiming” my spot in the major leagues as the premier set-up man in baseball.
Here’s how made the argument revealing the myriad of questions surround Betances in a recent post from Mets MLB Trade Rumors.
One would imagine the Mets would try to shop Betances in trades before considering a release, though it isn’t as if Betances’ trade value is high following a rough first season in Queens. The righty posted a 7.71 ERA over 11 2/3 innings in 2020, recorded more walks (12) than strikeouts (11), and spent a month on the IL due to a lat injury.
Unsurprisingly, Betances exercised his $6MM player option to remain with the Mets rather than test free agency in the wake of his down year. A four-time All-Star in his heyday with the Yankees, Betances missed almost all of the 2019 season due to shoulder problems, and then a partial Achilles tear.Mark Polishuk, MLB.com
Before we get crazy here, this is not the major decision facing the Mets as they put together their Opening Day roster, scheduled for April 1 against their arch-rival Washington Nationals in our nation’s capital.
Mets: Hoping For But Not Sure…
But suffice to say, Dellin Betances is not and shouldn’t be without the close observation of manager Luis Rojas, his coaches, and Sandy Alderson as the Mets weigh who can help and who can’t once the season gets underway.
In February, a scouting report put together by Empire Sports Media details all of the reservations about Dellin Betances and the Mets. Not much has changed with ten days before the season opens.
In top-flight, Dellin Betances can be a game-changer for the Mets in 2021.
At this point though, and given the Mets have little margin for error while playing in the most competitive division in baseball, Betances is not the pitcher the Mets thought they were getting.
Dellin Betances will be on the shortest of leashes, not the least of which may be the one he is placing on himself by simply remembering who and what he was before Randy Levine intervened.