Many believed this Yankees spring training felt different from previous years when it began earlier this week. There was no drama. No intriguing storylines. No Alex Rodriguez for reporters to follow around the Yankees’ complex. There wasn’t even a retirement tour press conference, like we’ve seen in recent years with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Oh, how things can change in the matter of 24 hours.
On one side is team president, Randy Levine. On the other is reliever, Dellin Betances. On Friday, Betances and his representatives faced off against Levine, GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM’s Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman in an arbitration hearing. The Yankees ultimately won with their offer of $3 million over Betances’ request for $5 million.
On Saturday, Levine held a contentious conference call following the Yankees’ arbitration victory and voiced his displeasure on how Betances’ agents handled the process. “What his agents did is make him a victim of an attempt to change a market place in baseball that has been well established for 30, 40 years and I feel bad for Dellin that he was used in that way,” Levine told reporters.
Betances’ request for $5 million didn’t sit well with the Yankees, who view that number as being associated with an elite closer, not a set-up man. As a matter of fact, Chapman avoided arbitration back in 2014 and received $5 million from the Reds.
Levine stated that Betances, who has primarily been the set-up man except for the final two months last season following Chapman’s trade to the Cubs, doesn’t have the stats to make an argument. “Dellin’s been great but he doesn’t have the statistics in the ninth inning or the saves,” said Levine. “At the end of the day it was obvious he was not getting $5 million unless it was a fluke.”
To put things in perspective, Levine even offered up a little analogy to hammer home his point. “It’s like me saying I’m not president of the Yankees — I’m an astronaut,” he said. “No, I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer.”
Betances addressed the media following Levine’s conference call and made one thing very clear: he was not happy.
If Levine had remained silent following the ruling that’s one thing, but coming out after a victory and firing salvos at the other side is another.
“Even though I disagree with the arbitrator’s decision, I was planning on putting everything behind me, until I was made aware of Randy Levine’s comments calling me a victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me, but then they take me in a room and trash me for about an hour-and-a-half. I thought that was unfair for me,” Betances said.
It was reported by the New York Times that, among other things, the Yankees focussed on pointing out Betances’ extra long delivery to home plate which yielded 21 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
Regardless, Betances feels disrespected that the Yankees view him as just an eighth-inning guy when he feels he’s given the team everything and more, especially over the past three years by throwing multiple innings at a time and coming in with men on base. From 2014-’16, Betances has tallied 247 innings (most by any reliever over that span) while recording 392 strikeouts (leads all relievers), and making the all-star team in each season.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot for this organization especially in the last three years. I’ve taken the ball time after time. Whenever they needed me I was there for them,” he said. “I never said ‘no.’ Whenever Girardi said ‘do you want the ball?’ I said ‘I got it.’ For me I just felt like this whole process was unfair. We tried to come to middle ground and nothing really happened.”
Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX sports on Saturday and said the following:
“The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy. He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him. Nonetheless, as Dellin has done throughout his career, he will continue to be a professional and an outstanding member of the community no matter how the Team President values him.”
To read more of Murray’s comments with Rosenthal, click here.
This is always the danger of arbitration. It’s because of the sometimes awkward and confrontational nature that players try to avoid it altogether. No one likes to hear someone try to diminish their worth or discredit their contributions, especially when details of such hearings can be made public to the press. While Levine’s comments are out of line and unnecessary, especially following his own victory — and you can see where Betances is coming from — both sides needs to move on especially when the gap between salaries is relatively small.
Manager Joe Girardi said as much earlier in the week before the hearing. “Obviously, this is the part of the game that somewhat becomes public and sometimes can be frustrating for both sides, but you have to be able to move on,” he told the NYT.
However, it seems as if this will stick with Betances, who still has two more years of arbitration eligibility left before he can become a free agent. In a couple of years, we may look back at this 24 hour time-period as the moment that re-defined the trajectory of Betances’ career
“You look at it a little differently now,” Betances said. “I think [free agency] will be a little easier when the time comes.”
Yankees camp just got a whole lot more interesting.