The Dellin Betances red flag that could make or break his Mets tenure


Second in a series analyzing the New York Mets.

The Mets have missed more often than not in recent seasons while diving into the free-agent bullpen market.

For every Justin Wilson that materialized (at least to this point), there’s been a disappointing Anthony Swarzak or Antonio Bastardo. And the early signs suggest general manager Brodie Van Wagenen whiffed in giving a three-year contract worth $30 million to Jeurys Familia before last season.

Dellin Betances is the biggest name to arrive to the Mets bullpen through free agency since Francisco Rodriguez was signed before the 2009 season. Betances’ New York City pedigree, from growing up in Brooklyn and starring for the Yankees, made him attractive — along with his obviously high upside — but what exactly are the Mets getting?

That question hadn’t even begun to be answered when spring training was suspended in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak. At that point Betances, who arrived on a one-year deal worth $10.5 million, had appeared in only two exhibition games, and his normally plus-fastball was sitting in the 90-91 mph range.

Dellin Betances at spring training with Wilson Ramos.
Dellin Betances at spring training with Wilson Ramos.Anthony J. Causi

Concern stems from the fact Betances is 32 years old and missed almost all of last season rehabbing from a right shoulder impingement before tearing his left Achilles in his first game back with the Yankees.

Betances indicated in spring training that the shoulder wasn’t a concern, with all emphasis on strengthening his ankle and showing he could move from the mound to field his position. That the Achilles injury had occurred to Betances’ drive foot, where he generates much of his power, was worrisome.

“I would be more concerned about the wear and tear on his arm,” a major league talent evaluator said. “They rode him hard with the Yankees, and that is probably why they didn’t commit to him on a multi-year deal. If I am the Mets I am more concerned about his shoulder than his Achilles.

“One [appearance] in 1 ½ years, he could have command issues because of that delivery, the long limbs. He gets out of whack real easily. But if he can get back close to what he was, then you’ve got a pretty good bargain for one year.”

If Betances returns to form, the Mets would have at the very least a top setup option, leading into closer Edwin Diaz. But the Mets could also consider Betances for closing duty if Diaz’s struggles continue from last season, when he was demoted from the role. The Mets used Wilson and Seth Lugo in the closer’s role for most of the final two months in 2019. Familia also had a dismal season and was relegated to pitching in low-leverage situations.

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Betances had shoulder problems early in his career — around the time he arrived to the major leagues — that forced him to redo his delivery. There were concerns at the time whether Betances would rebound. But over a five-year stretch, the 6-foot-8 Betances was selected to four All-Star games. He averaged 70 appearances per season over that stretch.

“There’s a lot of miles on that and that’s a big body,” the talent evaluator said. “But he might be totally fine. If they get this season going, it’s going to be a half-season and he can do real well and get one more contract or go year-to-year, who knows what is going to happen?”

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