Let me preface this story by saying that in a winter of unprecedented leaks and Yankees trade rumors, no credible reporting surfaced to suggest that Brian Cashman tried to move Dellin Betances. The closest thing to it came in October, when Joel Sherman speculated that the Bombers may shed his salary to create payroll flexibility. Those conversations played out, but it was David Robertson on the block, not Betances.
That said, did the Yankees miss an opportunity to shop the right-hander? Should they have made more of an effort to move him? In light of recent outings, these questions deserve some thinking through.
The case for trading Betances
Any trade involving Betances stems from depreciating value. The longer the Yankees hold on to him, the less of a return he figures to draw. Waiting means that the acquiring team has fewer games in which to use him.
At the same time, it’s possible that Betances’ best pitching days are behind him. He’s experienced a steep decline in results over the last two seasons. In particular, he collapsed down the stretch. That’s when he tends to simultaneously lose the ability to generate strikeouts and walks nearly every batter he faces. Talk about an awful combination for any type of pitcher. For a high leverage reliever though? That’s a nightmare scenario.
The 2018 season is off to an inauspicious start for Betances, as well. The Blue Jays ran wild on him on Saturday afternoon. Kevin Pillar, in particular, tormented him. The Toronto center fielder stole second, third, and home in the same inning. A straight steal of home! The 30-year-old has a well-documented struggle holding baserunners, but this made him look foolish.
Single. Steal second. Steal third. Then steal HOME. @KPILLAR4 doing it all himself. pic.twitter.com/C7OfsCKhCw— MLB (@MLB) March 31, 2018
Each times these cracks are exposed, the Yankees lose any leverage in a hypothetical Betances trade. Their potential return decreases as his struggles continues. He isn’t that young anymore, and his game has become increasingly flawed. It’s possible that the offseason proved the best chance to move him for a worthwhile package.
The case for keeping Betances
Holding on to Betances makes sense for two reasons:
1. His stuff is still filthy.
2. He is more valuable to the Yankees than he is any other team.
If Betances has one thing going for him, it’s the quality of his stuff. He hasn’t lost anything off his fastball. He averaged 98.36 mph on his fourseamer last season. His breaking ball looked as sharp as ever, too. That combination remains tantalizing. It’s not like he experienced a steep decline in velocity. He has an electric arsenal, and you can’t teach that.
Plus, it appears that he’s doing a better job of throwing strikes this season. Consider that outing on Saturday:
There were a few pitches up, but for the most part, he stayed in the zone. The fact that he can throw strikes with that type of stuff makes you want to believe. It suggests that the Betances of old still exists and could snap back into it at any moment.
Even if he doesn’t return to All-Star form, the Yankees probably benefit more from keeping him around. The trade market for relief pitchers stabilized after the Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman trades. Given his age and recent history, it’s unlikely that the Yankees would score a haul for Betances.
Plus, the Yankees built their team around a super-bullpen. A dominant Betances adds to a nightmarish end-game combination with Robertson and Chapman. If Aaron Boone can’t trust him with high leverage scenarios, though, he could be the most overqualified middle reliever in baseball.
As things stand, it seems like the Yankees made the right call by not shopping Betances. It could go either way, though. What do you think? Head on over to the comments section and let us know how you feel about trading Betances.