Standout Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances was one of 15 arbitration-eligible players in Major League Baseball this year that went before the arbitration board to decide his 2017 salary. Betances was asking for $5 million and the Yankees were willing to pay him $3 million, so they went before the MLB’s arbitration board to settle the matter. The Yankees won the case on Friday and Randy Levine called a press conference to criticize Betances and his agent despite his victory.
“[The claim] had very little sense of reality...$5 million goes to elite closers. Pitchers who pitch the 9th inning and have a lot of saves. Dellin didn't have that record. He never did...It's like me saying, I'm not the president of the Yankees, I'm an astronaut. I'm not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer," Yankees president Randy Levine told reporters during a 17-minute conference call.
Angered by Levine’s comments, Betances’ agent Jim Murray talked to reporters about what occurred in front of the arbitration board, saying that Levine continually mispronounced Betances’ name, and blamed him for declining ticket sales and their recent lack of postseason success.
The core of both the Yankees’ argument and the board’s ruling was Betances’ number of saves, only 22 over the last three years. However, during the same time period Betances has thrown more innings than any reliever in baseball with the third highest strikeout rate and the fifth lowest ERA. Just last year, St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal earned $5.6 million in his first year of arbitration. Rosenthal had a higher ERA, lower strikeout rate and less innings pitched than Betances, but had more saves. The arbitration board was willing to award a worse pitcher $2.6 million more because of what inning he pitched in. Betances’ low number of saves is because the Yankees have had a superb collection of relievers complimenting him, unlike Rosenthal.
However, saves should not matter to the arbitration board. If Dellin Betances were a free agent, he would get a contract on par with the best relievers in the game. Just this last postseason we saw Andrew Miller, former Yankee and Cleveland Indians relief ace, brought in as early as the fifth inning to stop rallies before they could begin. For his stellar work, Miller won ALCS MVP and is recognized as one of the best relievers in all of baseball.
Every team in baseball recognizes the value of Dellin Betances, yet the committee that decides his salary thinks he is less valuable, not because of the quality of his pitching but because of what inning he pitches in. Dellin Betances will likely not get many more saves this year, because behind him in the bullpen is Aroldis Chapman, who the Yankees gave a 5 year, $86 million contract this year to pitch the ninth inning.
Jacob Marsalisi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.