Assuming All-Star closer Will Smith signs elsewhere in free agency, the San Francisco Giants will have a void to fill in the ninth inning. Could Dellin Betances be the answer?
New York Yankees All-Star reliever Dellin Betances could not have picked a worse time to suffer through an injury-plagued season, but that could end up playing to the San Francisco Giants benefit this winter.
The 31-year-old battled a shoulder impingement and right lat strain for almost the entirety of the 2019 season, finally returning to action on Sept. 15 when he struck out both batters he faced on eight pitches.
His first appearance would prove to be his last.
The injury bug bit again in that brief outing when he suffered a partially torn right Achilles, leaving him a spectator for the team’s playoff run.
Now he’s set to hit the open market for the first time in his career as perhaps the biggest wild-card in the entire free-agent class.
While he’s not expected to need surgery on the Achilles, the injury questions will undoubtedly serve as a dark cloud hanging over his first foray into free agency.
In the five seasons prior to his abridged 2019 campaign, Betances was regularly mentioned among the game’s elite bullpen arms.
He made the AL All-Star team four times during that span, averaging 70 appearances while posting a 2.22 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and an eye-popping 14.6 K/9.
The Yankees deployed him mostly in a setup role, but he did record 36 saves during his time with the team, so he’s acquainted with the closer’s role.
The question is what kind of contract he’ll command.
He earned $7.13 million in 2019 in his final year of arbitration, and there will be no shortage of teams willing to roll the dice on him returning to his previously elite form.
The two-year, $25 million deal that Andrew Miller signed with the St. Louis Cardinals last winter might serve as a useful comparison. He too had a lengthy track record of late-inning success before enduring an injury-ravaged contract year.
However, that could also serve as a cautionary tale, since Miller posted a less-than-stellar 4.45 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 73 appearances with the Cardinals this year.
In the end, this will all come down to price tag, but it could be a worthwhile risk for the San Francisco Giants to take as they continue to search for value relative to production. But this only makes sense if the price is right.