This is not the sort of media attention the New York Yankees were hoping to have at the start of spring training: after winning their arbitration hearing against 28-year-old relief pitcher Dellin Betances, Yankees president Randy Levine called for a press conference on February 18th, where he bashed Betances and his agents.
The Yankees and Betances were taken to a salary arbitration hearing to decide who wins on their offer for Betances’ salary for the 2017 season. Betances requested $5 million for this upcoming season, while the Yankees offered him $3 million. The arbiters listened to both sides and ultimately favored with the Yankees.
What allows a player to enter salary arbitration? An MLB player must have at least three full seasons in the league, but less than six full seasons. If a player falls under these categories, they can take their salary requests to the team. From there, both sides can either reach an agreement, or take their demands to an arbitration panel. At the panel, arbiters listen to both sides arguments and they make a decision, siding with either the team or the player. In this case, arbitrators sided with the Yankees.
Instead of moving on from this situation and concentrating on the preparation for the upcoming season, Levine called for a press conference with the media. Levine was noticeably upset that both sides had to go through the arbitration hearing, and lashed out at the Betances camp. Here is what Levine had to say about the arbitration situation, suggesting that Betances’ agents used Betances to manipulate the market for set-up pitchers in the league:
“What his agents did was make him a victim of an attempt to change a marketplace in baseball that has been well established for 30, 40 years, and I feel bad for him that he was used by his agents,” said Levine. “Five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves. Dellin didn’t have that record,” said Levine.
“He’s a great, elite setup man, maybe one day he’ll be a great closer, we hope so. The agent took him to a case is 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 based on statistics.”
The most important fact Levine mentioned was that Betances did not have the statistics last season to earn the $5 million that he desired. In the 2016 season, Betances posted a 3-6 record with 12 saves, five blown saves, a 3.08 ERA, and 126 strikeouts with 299 batters faced in 73.0 innings. Those were not the greatest numbers, and it didn’t seem feasible that Betances would win his request for $5 million.
Betances agents fired back at Levine, and spoke about the “reprehensible” comments.
“…we are not going to be bullied by the Yankees’ team president,” said Jim Murray, Betances’ agent. “His statements are reprehensible and outright false. His desire to conduct a news conference today amounts to nothing but grandstanding and trying to mislead the media.”
Murray also took a shot at Levine’s suggestions that Betances was the sole reason why Yankees ticket sales plummeted last season, as well as why the Yankees did not make the playoffs. Later that afternoon, Betances held his own press conference to discuss the comments made by the Yankees president, stating the following:
“Saying I’m a victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me, but then they take me into a room and trash me for about an hour and a half,” said Betances. “I thought that was unfair. They value me as a setup man, an eighth-inning guy, so is it selfish of me to say now, ‘Hey guys, I just want to come in for the eighth inning with no runners on all the time?’ That’s not the player I am.”
It will be interesting to see how this situation will affect Betances, and if this ill-will will carry over into the Yankees dugout. Betances becomes a free agent in 2020, and it remains to be seen whether both sides will come to an agreement to move on and setup a trade to send Betances to a team for his opportunity to be a closer.
Regardless of the comments, Yankees fans hope that both sides can come to a mutual agreement to put their differences aside during the 2017 season, and address finances later. However, it may take a while for Levine and Betances to make nice with each other, although spring training may help bury the hatchet.
“I don’t regret anything I said [Saturday],” said Betances. “I had to get it off my chest and I did. I’m not just going to get over it as easy. I’m not going to sit here and say that today is a different day for me. But I was just glad that I was glad I was able to come out here and get some work done. That kind of takes some of the stress off your mind and puts you at ease.”