After eight seasons with the Yankees, Dellin Betances is not leaving New York — but he is not returning to the Bronx, either. The Mets on Tuesday signed Betances, a four-time All-Star who had become a free agent, to a one-year deal to bolster a bullpen that woefully underperformed in 2019.
When the Mets announced the deal, Betances had already changed his Twitter profile picture to one of him wearing a Mets hat and jersey in front of a Christmas tree, and sporting facial hair that would certainly violate the Yankees’ in-season policy.
“I love New York,” Betances said in a statement issued by the Mets. “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.”
Betances’s deal is creatively constructed, since he is recovering from a torn left Achilles’ tendon that prematurely ended his 2019 season. The contract guarantees him $10.5 million; it has a $6 million player option for 2021 that includes a $3 million buyout.
Should Betances return from his injury and perform at his usual high level, he could decline the 2021 option and re-enter the free agent market having earned $10.5 million over one season. Should he suffer a setback that damages his value as a free agent, he could trigger his option, return to the Mets and earn at least $13.5 million over two seasons. His deal also includes several incentives based on appearances and a 2022 player option that is only in play if he pitches in at least 50 games in 2020.
Among the best relievers in baseball this decade, Betances was expected to be a key part of a talented Yankees bullpen last season. From 2014 to 2018, he posted a 2.22 earned run average and averaged 75 innings a season. Despite a public spat with the Yankees after his arbitration hearing in 2017, Betances and the Yankees discussed a potential contract extension before the 2019 season.
But they did not reach a deal, and Betances missed the first five and a half months of the season with a shoulder injury discovered in spring training and a latissimus dorsi injury that emerged while he was working back from his original injury.
Betances returned in September but suffered a freak injury in his first game back, tearing his left Achilles’ tendon while hopping off the mound after a strikeout. His season ended after only eight pitches.
If he has indeed recovered from that injury, Betances could help boost a Mets bullpen that underperformed last season with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia falling short of expectations.
Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen hinted earlier this month, after signing starters Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, that the team might be done adding to the bullpen. But the team found some extra spending money after restructuring outfielder Yoenis Cespedes’s contract because of his ankle injury suffered in apparent violation of his contract.
“Dellin is one of the elite relievers in the game with an incredible track record of pitching on the biggest stage and in playoff games,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “This is a tremendously exciting gift for Mets fans this holiday season in our championship pursuit.”
Betances is reunited with his former Yankees teammate, Carlos Beltran, who was named the Mets’ new manager this winter. The Yankees stayed in touch with Betances’s agent, Jim Murray, this off-season, but they still have a well-stocked bullpen, with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle all under team control for at least two more seasons.
The Yankees have still sought to upgrade their bullpen, asking the Milwaukee Brewers about two-time All-Star Josh Hader. But prying away Hader, who is under four more years of team control, would most likely take a sizable trade offer.