Washington Nationals: Dellin Betances a possible trade target

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 17: Closing pitcher Dellin Betances
KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 17: Closing pitcher Dellin Betances /

The Washington Nationals may have a need for a back-end reliever. If they do, they should consider trading for Dellin Betances.

In the second half of 2017, the Washington Nationals had one of the best bullpens in the league. Anchored by mid-season acquisitions Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle, most late-inning leads were held without drama, a feeling unfamiliar to Nats fans.

However, Kintzler recently became a free agent and could potentially sign elsewhere. This would not come as a complete surprise, since he was an All-Star closer with the Minnesota Twins prior to joining the Nats and Doolittle has the Nats’ closer job locked down.

If Kintzler departs, the Nats could use another elite reliever in the back-end of the bullpen. This is where Dellin Betances comes into play.

Betances debuted in 2011, but began making a name for himself in 2014 when he pitched to a 1.40 ERA in 90 innings. Listed as 6’8″, he uses his height and velocity, with fastballs reaching as fast as 100 mph, to create a menacing mound presence. The 29-year-old reliever also features an elite curveball, mixing it with his fastball to create a deadly repertoire.

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Since 2014, Betances has pitched to a minuscule 2.11 ERA and has been named an All-Star in each of the four seasons. Over this stretch, he has arguably been the most dominant reliever in the league.

Although Betances is an elite reliever, he is not perfect. At times, he has shown a tendency to lose the strike zone a bit. This was especially evident in 2017, when he walked 44 batters in 59.2 innings, which is 6.64 BB/9.

Issuing free passes can be extremely detrimental, but Betances has found a way to be successful despite his occasional control issues. His 44 walks in 2017 were a career-worst, but he still managed to pitch to a 2.87 ERA.

Perhaps Betances’ wildness has contributed to his success. Pitchers who throw hard, but cannot consistently throw strikes are known as being “effectively wild” because it makes hitters extremely uncomfortable.

When you consider that Betances stands 7’6″ on the mound, throws 100 mph, and has control issues, that easily becomes one of the most uncomfortable at-bats in the league.

Betances also has reason to want out of New York. He has been among the most dominant relievers over the last four seasons, but never made over $500,000 until 2017, when he made $3 million.

A pitcher of his stature deserves to be paid much more, but the Yankees, who are known for their deep pockets, underpay him year after year. Betances was finally arbitration eligible prior to the 2017 season, and requested $5 million, but lost the case and made $3 million.

After degrading him to the arbitration judge, Yankees president Randy Levine publicly degraded Betances. Despite being an elite reliever and being named an All-Star three consecutive seasons, Levine ripped Betances for not being a closer.

However, Betances has actually pitched better than the Yankees’ closers. Take 2017 for example. Betances pitched to a 2.87 ERA, while Aroldis Chapman pitched to a 3.22 ERA. Betances also pitched more, appearing in 14 more games than Chapman.

After being underpaid year after year and being publicly degraded, Betances has plenty of reason to want out of New York.

Finally, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson have made Betances somewhat expendable. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner stated that he wants to remain under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, and trading Betances would undoubtedly clear some salary.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Betances is projected to make $4.4 million in arbitration for 2018, which is a cost the Yankees may not be willing to pay.

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While Betances has been lethal over the last four seasons, the Yankees may look to trade him this off-season. If they do, he could be a perfect fit for the Nats.