In the baseball world, $5 million for one season seems like a good deal for a three-time all-star reliever. For New York Yankees president Randy Levine, $3 million was as far as he was willing to go in the case of 28-year-old Dellin Betances. After this weekend’s arbitration hearing between the Yankees and Betances, Levine got what he wanted, but it seems that wasn’t enough.
What makes this noteworthy was Levine took the unorthodox step of publicly explaining his side of the case when he spoke to the media Saturday at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa and calling Betances a “victim” of his agents.
“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 that way by his agents,” Levine said after the ruling was announced. “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. 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 in 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.”
In layman’s terms, arbitration is where player representatives tell a panel how great their client is and a team representative tells that panel how bad the player is, despite wanting to retain his services.
Naturally, Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, isn’t surprised Levine feels the way he does, but Murray wasn’t pleased that those feelings became public.
“As you know, it’s not my style or our style as a company to comment to the media on anything,” Murray told Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal. “However, we are not going to be bullied by the Yankees’ team president. 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.
“With regards to Dellin, it was very ironic to hear the Yankees’ president express his love and affection when he spent the only portion of the hearing to which he contributed, calling this player by the wrong first name. It is Dellin, for the record. He then proceeded to blame Dellin for the Yankees’ declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history while trying to bully the panel, saying something to the effect that the sky will fall if they rule for the player. He is not going to bully this player. After that he turned it over to the lawyer the Yankees hired to argue the case and the (Major League Baseball) Labor Relations Department for everything else.”
“The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray went on. “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.”
It’s easy to see why Betances may now harbor ill will toward the team that selected him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft.
“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,” Betances said. “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 come in for the eighth inning with no runners on all the time?’ That’s not the player I am.”
Betances, who struck out 126 batters over 73 innings in 2016, hits the free agent market in 2020, according to baseball-reference.com, but he may already have one foot out the door after what transpired this weekend.
“You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes,” Betances said, according to reporter Bryan Hoch.