The Yankees won their arbitration case against reliever Dellin Betances on Friday, but team president Randy Levine made the curious decision to hold a press conference Saturday to rail against Betances and his representatives.
Betances, a three-time All-Star, requested $5 million in salary arbitration, while the Yankees submitted a $3 million figure. The arbiter ruled in favor of the team, so Betances will earn $3 million this year.
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Levine blasted Betances’s request, saying it “had no bearing in reality.”
“It’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut,’ Levine said, according to the New York Daily News. “I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer, at least based on the statistics, not whether he could or couldn’t be.”
Levine also accused Betances’s agents of attempting to use their client to set a precedent for other arbitration-eligible relievers.
“What his agent did is make him the victim of a half-baked attempt to change a marketplace in baseball that has been well-established for 30-40 years,” Levine said. “And I feel bad for Dellin that he was used in that way by his agent, because anybody who knows about this process would know that the history is very well-established that $5 million goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot of saves. Dellin didn’t have that record. He never did. He’s a great, elite setup man. Maybe one day he’ll be an elite closer, we hope so.”
Betances met with reporters later in the day and shot back at Levine.
“For (Levine) to say I’m a victim and my agents are using me … I honestly feel like I was being fair and asking for a fair deal,” Betances said, according to NJ.com.
Betances’s lead agent, Jim Murray, sent a statement to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal saying he and his client were being “bullied” and that Levine’s press conference “was nothing but grandstanding and trying to mislead the media.”
Murray also said that Levine repeated referred to Betances as “Dylan” during the arbitration hearing.
The current arbitration system is set up to reward pitchers with high save totals, leaving dominant pitchers like Betances at a disadvantage only because they do not work the ninth inning. Betances had just 12 saves last season, all recorded after the Yankees traded Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Chapman re-signed with the Yankees in the off-season, meaning Betances will return to an eighth-inning set-up role this year.