Betances, Brach exercise options with Mets
NEW YORK -- The foundation of the Mets’ 2020 bullpen will remain in place for '21. Both Dellin Betances and Brad Brach have exercised their player options to return next season, the club announced on Sunday, giving the Mets a similar relief corps to the one they left behind in September.
Betances had a player option worth $6.8 million, thanks to an appearances incentive that tacked $800,000 onto the deal. The only uncertainty over Betances’ decision stemmed from the $3 million buyout on his option, which essentially meant that anything more than a one-year, $3.8 million contract in free agency would guarantee him more money. But Betances opted to avoid the uncertainty of the open market coming off a second consecutive injury-riddled season.
After missing nearly all of 2019 due to right shoulder issues and a partially torn left Achilles tendon, Betances struggled to regain his old upper-90s velocity in '20. He hovered in the low- to mid-90s for much of the season before landing on the injured list with a right lat injury in late August. Betances did not return until the final weekend of the season, finishing with a 7.71 ERA in 15 appearances.
But Betances is still just 32 years old and not far removed from being one of the game’s top relievers. The New York native was a four-time All-Star with the Yankees from 2014-17, posting a 2.11 ERA with 492 strikeouts. From '14-18, Betances struck out 607 batters -- 120 more than any reliever over that stretch. He signed with the Mets after becoming a free agent last offseason.
Betances’ deal also includes an escalating 2022 player option that he can trigger if he appears in at least 50 games next season.
“I do enjoy playing with this group of guys,” Betances said in September. “Obviously, we came very short of expectations, and it’s very frustrating. But I like the guys that are here, the staff as well.”
Brach, another local product, found himself in a similar situation as Betances coming off a down season. The New Jersey native missed most of Summer Camp due to a COVID-19 diagnosis and was initially reliable upon his return, allowing one run over his first six outings. But Brach struggled with his control after that, walking 12 of the final 32 batters he faced. Overall, he posted a 5.84 ERA.
One of the game’s best relievers over five seasons in Baltimore last decade, Brach came to the Mets in late 2019 and found success down the stretch, changing up his pitch mix to focus on his changeup and cutter.
Brach's 2021 option is worth $1.25 million.
With Brach and Betances back, the Mets will rely on a bullpen mix of those two, Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro, Drew Smith and possibly Seth Lugo, depending upon whether New York sees him as a starting pitcher or a reliever. Arbitration-eligible relievers Chasen Shreve and Robert Gsellman could also return. Other than free agents Justin Wilson and Jared Hughes, it’s largely the same group that finished tied for 18th in the Majors with a 4.60 ERA last season -- a number inflated due to poor performances in late July and late September.
The Mets figure to add a bit to their bullpen mix this winter, but they are more likely to focus their spending on starting pitching and position players.