The Yankees have been active locking up their stars to long-term deals this offseason. After Aaron Hicks signed his seven-year extension earlier this week, all signs point to Dellin Betances as the next player to sign an extension.
Regarding a possible extension, the reliever recently told Newsday’s Erik Boland, “I’m just focusing on playing baseball and helping this team win and that’s my goal.” However, Betances does employ an agent who could very well be working behind the scenes to get some kind of deal done. Betances also told Boland, “I would love to play here in New York, but whenever there’s a decision to make, my agent will come to me with that.”
A Dellin Betances extension should absolutely be a priority for the Yankees. He is undoubtedly one of the best relievers in baseball, if not the best. Since joining the big leagues full time in 2014, Betances has been lights-out. He leads all relievers in fWAR and innings, is top-five in strikeouts per nine innings and FIP, and among the top arms in the game at preventing hard contact.
He also hasn’t really shown any significant signs of slowing down. His average fastball velocity in 2018 was 97.7 MPH -- the same as it was in 2015, and his spin rates continue to hover around 2400 RPM. There’s also the added benefit of his health. Betances hasn’t spent a day off the Yankees’ active roster since August 31, 2013.
For as good as he’s has been, Betances has also been an extremely volatile pitcher. Controlling the baseball has never been a strong-suit and those problems really showed themselves during the 2017 season. Despite putting up some of the best strikeout rates of his career, Betances became unusable at the end of that season because he walked 6.64 batters per nine innings.
To his credit, he did rectify the mechanical issue that caused the inflated walk numbers. Jeff Sullivan, formerly of FanGraphs, did a fantastic piece on this a few months ago. Essentially, Betances lowered his leg kick and started keeping his upper-body more closed off, and it helped him calm the out of control walk rate. Control problems might always follow Betances, but at least he has a track record of fixing them.
Obviously the Hicks extension turned up the speculative heat on a potential future Betances extension, but this tweet really stuck out to me:
With the Severino and Hicks extensions done, who is next? “We’ve been very vocal that we’ve engaged with a lot of players,” said Cashman. While Cashman wouldn’t identify any other players, Betances is one of them.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) February 25, 2019
If Jack Curry says something is true, Yankee fans can almost always take it to the bank. If the Yankees were to pursue an extension, figuring out a Betances market wouldn’t be entirely difficult because relievers were some of the hottest commodities on the free agent market the past two seasons.
Right now, a three-to-four year deal worth somewhere between $10M to $14M a year seems like a reasonable ballpark for an extension because that’s what the market seems to be for guys like Betances.
The Yankees just gave Adam Ottavino $27 million over three years. However, he’s a few years older than Betances, and doesn’t have the same track record of effectiveness as Betances. If the Yankees get him on a deal like that, it would be a steal for management.
A good blueprint for a future extension is Zack Britton, who just signed a four-year deal worth up to $53 million. Both Britton and Betances came onto the scene as two of the league’s best in 2014, so they have a very similar track record. Britton also signed his deal at age 31, which is the same age Betances will be at season’s end. Number 68 wouldn’t be crazy to ask for a similar or better deal, especially if he has another All-Star year in 2019.
Finally, let’s not forget, there is a human element to contract extensions. Players don’t typically take hometown discounts or less money to stay with a good team. If they did, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia probably wouldn’t have ever been Yankees. At the same time, Aaron Hicks did mention the new birth of his son a couple of times when discussing his recent extension. Betances and his wife also welcomed a son a few weeks ago. It would be foolish to bank on this fact having a significant impact on discussions, but I can’t completely discount it either. Betances could very well settle for a safer option with a new family.
If the Yankees are unable to get an extension done before the season, Betances’ velocity is going to be the primary thing to look out for this year. He’s still very much a fireballer, but he is on the wrong side of 30 now. Any significant dips in velocity or fastball spin could spell doom in just a couple of years. Betances is a blow-you-away kind of guy. He brings the heat. Without a solid fastball, it’s hard to predict how effective he could be. If Betances pitches to his usual level and doesn’t sign an extension, expect him to command one of the top free agent contracts for a reliever next offseason.