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Mets sign former Yankees reliever Dellin Betances to one-year deal

Mets reliever Dellin Betances poses in front of

Mets reliever Dellin Betances poses in front of a Christmas tree after signing with the team on Tuesday. Credit: New York Mets

Dellin Betances stayed home for the holidays.

The Mets received some much-needed bullpen help Tuesday, signing the four-time All Star to bolster a back end that struggled last year, the team announced. Betances, who’s spent his entire eight-year career with the Yankees and grew up in New York, said he had every desire to stay in the city that raised him.

The deal reportedly is for one year and $2.2 million, with a 2021 player option worth $6 million, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Mets have the option for a buyout in 2021, worth $3 million. Betances also is receiving a $5.3 million signing bonus.

Betances is looking to reclaim his former dominance after an injury-marred 2019 season in which he only appeared in one game.

“I love New York,” Betances said in a statement. “I grew up in Manhattan. Went to high school in Brooklyn. Played minor league ball in Staten Island. Made it to the big leagues in the Bronx. Now, I’m excited to go win a World Series with the Mets in Queens. Thanks to Fred and Jeff [Wilpon], [general manager] Brodie [Van Wagenen], and all the other Mets staff who worked so hard to make possible this next step in my New York journey. Merry ChristMets! Let’s Go METS!”

It was, in many ways, an ideal match. The Mets were in desperate need of some relief – literal and figurative. Though Van Wagenen and company certainly are hoping for bounce-back seasons from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, the bullpen – especially the back end – was a huge liability in 2019. At 4.95, the Mets had the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the National League, and Diaz – the closer the Mets traded their best prospects for – blew seven saves while recording only 33. Familia, who signed with the Mets on a three-year, $30 million contract last offseason, had a 5.70 ERA, the highest among the team’s regular relievers. Diaz, meanwhile, went 2-7 and allowed 15 home runs, the highest among all the Mets relievers. Routinely, the Mets had to turn to Seth Lugo and, to a lesser extent, Robert Gsellman – both converted starters – to stabilize their big-name closer and expensive set-up man. 

Betances began last season on the injured list, the result of a bone spur in his right shoulder. He also spent time on the injured list with a lat injury before making his return on Sept. 15. He struck out the only two batters he faced in Toronto that day, but partially tore his left Achilles tendon while celebrating, ending his season.

Before that, Betances was among the very best, making the American League All-Star team four years in a row from 2014-17 and placing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2014. He spent eight seasons with the Yankees and had 36 saves in 358 games. He has a career 2.36 ERA, a 1.043 WHIP, and an average of 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings, third-highest in the modern era for pitchers with at least 200 innings. In his last full season in 2018, he had a career-high 42.3 strikeout rate. His fastball topped out at around 98 miles per hour, while his slider dropped in at around 84 mph. He will be 32 going into the 2020 season.

Betances also is the first reliever ever to have 100 or more strikeouts in five straight seasons and led all relievers in strikeouts from 2014 to 2016. His career batting average against is .170. 

“Dellin is one of the elite relievers in the game with an incredible track record of pitching on the biggest stage and in playoff games,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “This is a tremendously exciting gift for Mets fans this holiday season in our championship pursuit.”

The Mets were able to afford Betances in part because of amending the contract of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes earlier this month. According to published reports, Cespedes’ expected $29.5 million salary in 2020 was cut to $6 million plus incentives. The amended contract was the result of the settlement of a formal grievance. The Mets took issue with Cespedes suffering a non-baseball injury in an accident on his ranch in Port St. Lucie, Florida, in May.

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