As the Major League Baseball calendar officially flips to its offseason agenda on Thursday, the Yankees will have the winter months to choose how to spend roughly $60 million that is currently off their payroll.
The presumed plan involves New York diving into this year’s free agent market, which is already chock-full of polished closers, including Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman, Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, and Nationals’ Mark Melancon.
But the bullpen vacancy could be fixed internally with right-handed reliever Dellin Betances, who assumed the closing role on Aug. 1 without the solace of lefties Chapman and Andrew Miller.
While Betances struggled to find consistency in the late innings, baseball’s greatest reliever doesn’t believe the 28-year-old’s mishaps will continue much longer.
“I think Betances has done a tremendous job,” Yankees great Mariano Rivera told Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News on Saturday in Chicago. “He needs to see a little bit differently; he has nothing coming behind him now. Before, he did. I think he’s capable of doing the job and he will do the job. I don’t see why not.”
Rivera, who was at Wrigley Field on Saturday to present Orioles’ closer Zach Britton with the 2016 Mariano Rivera Award (which goes to the American League’s best reliever), has no doubts in Betances’ abilities, and notices a few parallels between their careers.
“For me, I needed to get outs,” said Rivera, who made the transition from setup man to closer in 1997. “In the eighth or in the ninth, I needed to get outs. That was my focus. I didn’t pay attention to if it was the eighth or the ninth.”
Despite earning nine saves in ten opportunities in August, Betances floundered on the mound in September, finishing the month with a 9.64 ERA in 11 outings. But Rivera believes Betances can improve his results by fielding his position properly, while also preventing baserunners from stealing.
“He has the right mentality. That’s a big boy out there,” Rivera said. “I don’t think that he will be shy about doing that job. Looking forward to spring training and the beginning of the season to see how he will respond in a full year as a closer.”
As for Indians’ relief ace Andrew Miller, who was dealt by the Yankees at the trade deadline, Rivera has admired Miller’s willingness to place his ego aside and pitch lights-out in all situations this postseason.
“It’s selfless,” Rivera said. “There’s no, ‘I can’t throw that because I’m not a setup man or a long reliever.’ Forget about it. Those boys get in there and are getting the job done. It’s not about yourself; it’s about the team. If the team needs you, you go there.”