The Runner Sports

While Aroldis Chapman Is Down, Time For Dellin Betances To Prove He Is Worth Closer Money

Over the weekend, the New York Yankees took their lashings from the Houston Astros. Losing three out of four games in the series, the starting rotation looked weak while the offense still thrived as usual. However, the Yankees lost something more important than the series: Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman has been placed on the 10-day DL with rotator cuff inflammation in his throwing shoulder. According to manager Joe Girardi, Chapman is expected to miss about a month of games while he recovers from the injury. Though it is not a great sign that the All-Star closer has been placed on the DL within two months (of season time) of signing the largest reliever contract in history, the level of worry should remain relatively low.

Concern Level Low

Back in 2012 when Chapman was still with the Cincinnati Reds, Chapman went to the DL with a similar injury. After taking time to allow the shoulder to heal itself, Chapman returned with the same velocity and effectiveness he had before he went down with the injury. Another plus is that the MRI on Saturday did not show any structural damage to his shoulder. With that news, the Yankees are not expecting any long-term issues with Chapman. If the injury is simply inflammation, then a month of rest should be the only thing necessary for Chapman to return to the bullpen.

Bullpen Strength is a Blessing

For some teams, losing their closer would be monumental and could spell doom for a short period of time. The bullpen would be out of sorts with the setup man (most likely) filling in to takeover for the injured closer. However, the Yankees are in a position of strength with their bullpen. Not only does the team have Dellin Betances (who has 22 career saves), but the depth of the bullpen helps to fill the gap that Betances now leaves. While Betances is the fill-in closer, Tyler Clippard will take over as the set-up man. Clippard, who has a 1.17 ERA this season, will slide easily into the eighth inning.

Replacing Clippard’s role will be Adam Warren. Warren has been fantastic as a multi-inning middle reliever. Warren has a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings in 12 games. With Chapman down, Warren will see his usage bump up. That could mean longer appearances out of the bullpen or more appearances of shorter outings. This is the reason why the Yankees preferred Warren in the bullpen rather than the rotation. He provided Girardi much need flexibility with a less than stellar starting rotation.

Despite not having Andrew Miller anymore, the Yankees’ bullpen could be stronger than the one from last season. At the moment, Chapman had one the highest ERA among the MLB relievers in the Yankees bullpen at 3.55. While 3 of his 5 earned runs came against the Chicago Cubs in that 18 inning game, that is still a statement about how good this bullpen is this season. It is still outstanding for the Yankees that the majority of the bullpen has a sub-3 ERA. In fact, there are only two other relievers who have ERAs higher than 2 (Tommy Layne and Luis Cessa).

Will Betances Please Stand-Up?

This is the second stint that Dellin Betances will have as closer for the Yankees. Last season, Betances received the opportunity after Brian Cashman traded Miller and Chapman away at the deadline. This season, Betances will receive a little over a month to demonstrate his ability to serve as a closer. While last season he stared out strongly (converting 11 of his first 12 save opportunities), it fell apart at the tail end of the season. After giving up 2 runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 14, Betances closed out his 2016 with a 14.54 ERA in his final six appearances.

The Yankees should be confident that Betances can answer the calling of the bell. Most likely, there probably is a fire burning in Betances with a desire to become the closer. He has been looked over as the closer for the past couple of seasons as the front office has looked elsewhere. After his All-Star season in 2014, Betances was not chosen to be the team’s closer when David Robertson was a free agent. Instead, the Yankees went out and signed Andrew Miller.

Before the 2016 season, the Yankees traded for current closer Aroldis Chapman, who was then traded. Heading into this offseason, the Yankees made sure to sign a closer rather than go with Betances. Perhaps his last season collapse played a part in that, but the team could have easily signed another strong reliever rather than a full-time closer.

Remember the Arbitration

With this opportunity in front of Betances, he will have a chance to stick it to Yankees’ President Randy Levine. While that will not earn him the extra $2 million he was looking for this offseason, it will be a feather in Betances’s cap to stick to Levine. The sticking point in the heated confrontation between Betances and Yankees’ brass was the price tag for a non-closer. Betances certainly pitches well enough to be paid closer money, but the simple fact that he is not the closer for the Yankees is what hurt his case the most.

Now, the young right-hander has an opportunity to be an effective closer. This will help him in an upcoming arbitration hearing, which is more likely to happen than an agreed extension. If Betances continues to dominate the way he currently has been (a 0.74 ERA), he could come out on top against the Yankees in arbitration. Betances is clearly on his way to another All-Star selection, but the real award would be to get paid a little more than the average set-up man.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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