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The Yankees should make sure to bring back Dellin Betances

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Prioritizing a bullpen full of power arms has been a clear strategy in recent seasons, and the tall righty fits the description like no other.

MLB: New York Yankees-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees’ bullpen has had quite a few faces between 2014 and 2019. Several relievers came in and others went away, but one imposing figure stuck around during all those years: Dellin Betances, the 6-foot-8 fireballer, has been a dominant force for that entire timeframe.

He was primed to receive a life-changing payday at the end of 2019, but fate had other plans, at least for now. He missed the first 24 weeks of the season with lat and shoulder issues, and when he returned in September 15 to face Toronto, he tore his left Achilles tendon in heartbreaking fashion. He was lost for the rest of the year and his status for 2020 came into question.

Had he been healthy and, as is often the case with him, dominant in 2019, Betances would have been in line for one of the biggest contracts for a reliever. Maybe not in Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman territory, but close enough, as the market had been prioritizing high-powered bullpen arms in recent years. Still, don’t doubt it for a second: re-signing Betances should be a priority for the New York Yankees, as he can resume his dominating career in 2020 even if not on the long-term deal he was due.

Betances will, most likely, want a short-term contract this offseason to re-enter free agency as soon as possible in a better position to cash in with a lucrative multi-year deal. Teams will likely be interested in him as things stand today, but given his serious injury and the fact that he practically didn’t pitch at all this year, he may not receive the multi-year offers he clearly deserves.

For what it’s worth, Dr. Brian Sennett, the chair of Sports Medicine at Penn Medicine, said in September that the power righty will indeed be ready by the spring and that the overall prognosis is positive. The good news is that it wasn’t a full tear, and that his arm is intact. Achilles injuries can be tricky, but at least it wasn’t his elbow or a re-aggravation of the shoulder problems.

He may have to settle for a one-year deal, probably around ten million dollars (a little more or less, depending on the market, of course.) Here’s hoping that the Yankees are the team that secures his services, because even if he misses a few weeks of spring training or even the start of the regular season, the team can enjoy the rewards later in the summer and in the playoffs, should they qualify.

An unquestionably elite reliever

From 2014 to 2018 (five seasons) these were Betances’ rankings among relievers:

  • Third in K/9 (14.63)
  • Eight in ERA (2.22)
  • Fourth in FIP (2.26)
  • Third in xFIP (2.28)
  • Second in fWAR (11.2)
  • Second in holds (117)
  • First in innings pitched (373.1 IP)
  • First in strikeouts (607)
  • Fourth in K% (40.3)
  • Sixth in SIERA (2.17)
  • Eighth-lowest contact percentage (65.5)

That’s five years of truly elite performance. Pitchers like Betances don’t grow on trees, and for the win-now Yankees, it makes an awful lot of sense to secure his signature in a short-term, prove-it deal.

If next winter comes along and Betances, having dominated in 2020, asks for a long-term pact at 32 years old, then letting him walk becomes a bit more understandable, although not necessarily the right call. But not this year. Dellin needs to don the pinstripes next season.

His numbers speak for themselves. His durability once spoke for itself before the mess that was 2019. Re-signing Betances should be high among the team’s list of priorities for the offseason. The Yankees proudly brag about their dominant bullpen, and Betances has been a key cog for the last few years. Bringing him back would take some pressure off Adam Ottavino, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and others, especially in a best-of-seven series in the playoffs where the keeping the bullpen’s best arms fresh can help decide the team’s fate.