How do you give a grade to a player who spent all season trying to get healthy, only to return for one inning before partially tearing his left Achilles tendon? The answer is, you don’t. All you can really do is hope Betances is able to put shoulder and Achilles injuries behind him and get his exceptional career back on track in 2020.
2019 Stats: 0.2 IP, 2 strikeouts
2020 Contract Status: Free agent
Betances began the season on the injured list with a shoulder impingement, and it was later revealed that he’s had a previously inconsequential bone spur in his right shoulder since the team drafted him in 2006. After rehabbing his shoulder and a strained lat, Betances finally returned to action on September 15 in Toronto. He struck out both batters he faced and skipped off the mound in typical Betances fashion. In what had to be the most heartbreaking news of the Yankees’ season, it was announced that Betances partially tore his Achilles tendon coming off the mound in his first outing of the season.
For Betances, it was the worst case scenario in a contract year. Prior to his disappointing 2019, Betances set an MLB record by becoming the first relief pitcher to record five straight 100-strikeout seasons. Now 31 years old, there might not be a particularly strong market for Betances, whose velocity became a real concern, both in spring training and his return from the IL.
Betances was hovering around 90 mph in spring training, the first indication that he might be nursing an injury. In his lone relief appearance in September, his fastball topped out at 94.9 mph, after averaging 97.7 mph in 2018. As long as he can locate his fastball and unleash his devastating breaking ball, Betances will be a valuable reliever.
The extent of his injuries should become evident based on the Yankees’ interest in retaining his services this offseason. He’s a clubhouse favorite and a staple of the Yankees bullpen, so it will be telling if the Yankees let him walk, especially considering he’s not going to break the bank like he might have with a strong 2019 season. Could he come back to New York on a short term deal to regain some value and chase a title?
The bottom line is, Aroldis Chapman has an opportunity to opt-out and the Yankees could use a healthy Betances to maintain their bullpen dominance, but an injury-riddled season has muddied the waters quite a bit. Here’s to hoping his historic Yankees tenure didn’t end with that torn Achilles in Toronto.