The New York Mets picked up Dellin Betances for Christmas last year. They cannot let him walk away after just the 2020 season.
When New York Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen signed reliever Dellin Betances last Christmas Eve, he demonstrated his commitment to contend in 2020. But after a less-than-stellar return to the game, the former All-Star’s future in Flushing remains in doubt.
At the time of Betances’ $10.5 million prove-it deal, Van Wagenen believed the former Bronx reliever would ‘put the bullpen over the top’ and solidify a pitching staff badly in need of reliable arms for late inning relief.
In fact, this deal was initially hailed as a strong move, and one the front office needed to make in order to shore up a bullpen that squandered 27 save opportunities in 2019.
But halfway through MLB’s truncated 2020 season, the Mets bullpen has continued to experience the same late-inning struggles they dealt with last year; during which Betances made only one relief outing while under contract with New York’s other baseball team, throwing 8 pitches and striking out 2 batters in 0.2 IP.
Moving forward, if the Mets want their team’s relief corps to improve in 2021, they’ll need Betances to be wearing orange and blue in order to get on track.
As of August 21, the 6’8 reliever has shown there are key areas of his game that need to get better. Moreover, his outings have shown that he’s trying to regain his old form after rehabbing a trio of nagging injuries that kept him sidelined practically all last year: a tear in his right shoulder, a strain on his right latissimus dorsi (“lat”) muscle, and a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon.
Through 11 appearances, he’s only struck out 7 batters in 9.0 innings of work while carrying a high 6.00 ERA. His main critics have also cited his decreased fastball velocity (averaging low-90s from his once-dominant 98mph speed) as his most concerning setback this season.
However, despite his mediocre 2020 stats thus far, fans and management alike should allow Betances some small room for error, as this year (all-around) has not been played under normal circumstances.
And regardless of how he finishes down the stretch, it’s important to acknowledge that a condensed 60-game season is not a large enough sample size to judge him accurately as a pitcher coming back from three critical injuries that, when suffered separately, require intense strength and conditioning training.
Therefore, while it appears the Mets signed him on a bad year, as things have turned out, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t strongly consider having him back on the team again in 2021.
If Betances continues to get reps this summer and can continue his rehab over the offseason, a new deal for next year is an investment the Mets – new owners or not – should be willing to make with their window of opportunity to win a championship occurring right now.
By year-end, Betances will ultimately make the call to exercise his $6 million player option for 2021 or become an unrestricted free agent.
Notwithstanding the shortened 2020 season, the terms of the deal he signed last December also includes a $3 million team buyout should he decide to opt-out, in addition to a vesting player option for 2022 that would only be activated if Betances reached the performance incentive threshold (such as innings pitched or game appearances) as defined in his current contract by the end of next season.
As the payroll stands today, the team has ~$90 million coming off the books, which means signing him won’t necessarily be about money. It will be primarily about talent, and if BVW – or his potential replacement – believes he is worth a roster spot.
Because of his age, and the type of injuries he sustained to his shoulder and Achilles tendon during 2019, I think it’s unlikely Mets fans will ever get the pitcher Betances was during the five-year stretch he consistently struck out 100+ batters and sustained a 2.22 ERA out of the pen.
But recognizing that reality does not mean the Washington Heights native doesn’t still have good baseball left in the tank or more to accomplish in the latter part of his career.
Upon signing with the team, Betances stated his love for this city, “I grew up in Manhattan. Went to high school in Brooklyn. Played Minor League ball in Staten Island. Made it to the big leagues in the Bronx. Now, I’m excited to go win a World Series with the Mets in Queens.”
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So if he’s open to returning, and the money is reasonable, there’s no reason not to give Betances a second chance on his mission to be amazin’ once again.