Friday morning, the Yankees and Dellin Betances went to an arbitration hearing to determine the ace setup man’s salary for the 2017 season. Betances was seeking $5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The Yankees were offering $3 million.
On Saturday, it was announced the three-person arbitration panel has sided with the Yankees, meaning Betances will earn $3 million this coming season, not the $5 million he requested.
Billy Witz of the New York Times has some details on the arbitration hearing:
On Friday, Betances arrived at the Vinoy Renaissance shortly before 9 a.m., with a half dozen or so advisers, including his agent, Jim Murray. Several members of Betances’ team carried armfuls of thick white binders, and at one point, someone warned the 6-foot-8 pitcher not to bump his head on a low-hanging ceiling beam.
A few minutes later, the Yankees’ contingent -- about 10 strong, headed by the team president, Randy Levine, and including General Manager Brian Cashman and the assistant general managers, Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman -- entered.
But as (Betances) waited afterward in the lobby of the hotel where the hearing was held, several of his advisers could be heard nearby grousing about a Yankees tactic during the hearing -- namely, focusing on Betances’ slow delivery to home plate, which allowed base runners to steal 21 bases against him last season in 21 attempts.
Arbitration hearings are rarely pretty. The team details all the player’s shortcomings and explain why he should receive a smaller salary than he thinks he deserves. The business side of the game can be unpleasant for sure. Arbitration hearings are as ugly as it gets.
Because Friday’s hearing and the team’s win over Betances wasn’t enough, Levine jumped on a conference call with reporters Saturday and ripped Betances and his agent for what he deemed an unrealistic ask of $5 million.
Randy Levine said that Dellin Betances' $5 million request might as well have been $50 million. "He doesn't have the stats."— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 18, 2017
"$5M goes to elite closers. Pitchers who pitch the 9th inn and have a lot of saves. Dellin didn't have that record. He never did." - Levine— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 18, 2017
RL: "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."— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 18, 2017
Goodness. Way to kick one of your best and most popular players when he’s down. To make matters worse, Murray says Levine didn’t even pronounce Betances’ name correctly during the arbitration hearing:
The arbitration process is pretty archaic, so saves are far and away the most important stat for a relief pitcher. It’s true Betances doesn’t have many saves (22, to be exact), but to say he “doesn’t have the stats” to seek $5 million is crazy talk. Here is where Betances ranks among all relievers over the last three seasons:
- Innings: 247 (first, Carlos Torres is second with 237)
- ERA: 1.93 (fifth behind Wade Davis, Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller)
- Strikeouts: 392 (first, Miller is second with 326)
- WAR: 8.6 (third behind Britton and Davis)
Now, to be fair, the $3 million is a record salary for a setup man in his first trip through arbitration. No other non-closing reliever had ever received even $2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Betances didn’t just break the record, he shattered it.
That said, based on their $5 million ask, Betances and his camp were seeking closer money. Chapman received $5 million in his first trip through arbitration, and aside from saves, Betances had outperformed him every way leading up to arbitration:
Saves pay in arbitration and Betances doesn’t have them, which is why he received $3 million instead of $5 million. He and his camp were going to have a tough time convincing the arbitration panel he deserved to be paid like a closer, and ultimately they were unsuccessful. That’s the system.
Arbitration is part of baseball. It’s a business. What’s not a part of baseball is a team president jumping on a conference call with reporters to trash one of his best players after beating him in an arbitration hearing. Betances has never complained about his role and he does a ton of work with the Yankees in the community. He’s been a model employee.
The arbitration victory just wasn’t enough, I guess. Levine had to rub it in.