To the shock of all Mets fans, Brodie Van Wagenen and the front office invested in a star free agent reliever. And it wasn’t just the usual cheap solution that the Mets traditionally have signed; it was star Yankee relief pitcher Dellin Betances; who is now heading to Queens on a 1 year $10.5 million contract.
James Wagner from the New York Times broke down the interesting contract details:
“Betances’s deal is creatively constructed, since he is recovering from a torn left Achilles’ tendon that prematurely ended his 2019 season. The contract guarantees him $10.5 million; it has a $6 million player option for 2021 that includes a $3 million buyout…
Should Betances return from his injury and perform at his usual high level, he could decline the 2021 option and re-enter the free agent market having earned $10.5 million over one season. Should he suffer a setback that damages his value as a free agent, he could trigger his option, return to the Mets and earn at least $13.5 million over two seasons. His deal also includes several incentives based on appearances and a 2022 player option that is only in play if he pitches in at least 50 games in 2020.”
In other words, it’s going to be a yearly evaluation by both parties for a star player coming off a major injury.
The Mets priority coming into the off season was to add pitching – particularly to their lacking bullpen. So far, the Mets have bought low and for solid value on 2 veteran starters in Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
However, the signing of the 4 time all-star in Betances trumps both of the other signings by a landslide. The Mets are going to rely heavily on the 31 year old, who has a career 2.36 ERA.
This was a much needed move for the Mets, but they are taking a rather big risk.
Betances appeared in only one game this past season for the Yankees, in which he suffered from a partially torn Achilles tendon. This was just after he recovered all season from a nagging shoulder injury. Safe to say, injuries are a big concern – and Mets fans know no team (except for maybe the 2019 Yankees) has worse annual injury luck than us.
Though, when Betances is healthy he has proven to be a top reliever in baseball. For one main stat to prove so, Betances does have a 14.6 strikeout per 9 inning rate; which is 3rd best in MLB history.
Another element to the signing is that now, the Mets need to figure what role Betances will play in the bullpen. Betances does have closing experience as he closed 35 games for the Yankees, but that 35 included 18 blown saves.
With that in mind, Mets have to make Betances feel comfortable as a reliever, before thinking of any other positions in the bullpen. There is no way the Mets should put Betances on the field as a closer until he has proven that he is fully healthy, as well as showing he is a dominant reliever again.
The Mets already have multiple relievers who have served as a closer before – most notably last season’s big trade acquisition and massive bust Edwin Diaz – so they will have plenty of options to choose from.
During the 2019 season the bullpen was atrocious, which arguably led to their failure to make the postseason – despite having an unbelievable year hitting, and starting-pitching wise.
Last offseason, the Mets did not only trade for Edwin Diaz (who was brought in alongside another 2019 bust in Robinson Cano from Seattle, for coveted prospects Jared Kelenic and Justin Dunn) – but they also signed Jeurys Familia; who also had a horrendous 2019.
Familia posted a ERA of 5.70 while Diaz posted a 5.60 ERA also having 7 losses and blowing 7 games.
Rookie manager Carlos Beltran and his team now must figure out about what spot Betances plays in, while also determining where Familia and Diaz fit in; hoping they bounce back in any capacity. We saw Mickey Callaway’s incapability to manage the bullpen, so hopefully Beltran and co. can solve the reoccurring issue.
Amongst all the failures, the Mets bullpen did have some bright spots; mainly from Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson. Robert Gsellman is another big arm in the Mets bullpen – but he too is coming off of a injury. Expect the aforementioned Michael Wacha to join the pen as well, as that change from the starting rotation to relieving could be beneficial.
Overall, this signing does give the Mets more flexibility. There is a lot to like about this signing for a Mets fan.
One glaring positive is that we already know that pitching in New York will be no problem at all for Betances, as he pitched in pinstripes for 8 years, and was born and raised in the Big Apple. This was a huge problem for Diaz, who struggled mightily with the pressure – explaining how he went from arguably the best reliever in baseball, to one of the most disappointing last season.
Improving the bullpen was a huge need for the Mets, and this low-risk deal on a potential superstar was a great move. Even if this deal does not work out for the Mets, they will be in little trouble as this is only a one year deal.
With this deal there is clearly some risk, but to win a pennant and eventually a World Series, you need to take risks.