Thursday, January 2, 2020

BVW On Betances: "He's got size, he's got strength, and he's got swagger"

Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen presents Dellin Betances with his new cap. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Thursday at Citi Field, the Mets introduced their new star relief pitcher, Dellin Betances, whom they recently signed to a one-year contract.

Betances spent his entire career with the Yankees, where he was one of the most dominant relievers in the American League since he came up in 2014. He has racked up 609 strikeouts in 374 innings, and was the fist reliever in baseball history to record 100 or more strikeouts for five straight seasons, from 2014 to 2018. He missed nearly all of last season due to injury.

The Mets are hoping he will bolster a bullpen that includes Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz (who had a rough 2019, his first with the Mets), Justin Wilson, Brad Brach, and Jeurys Familia, and be the difference when it comes to holding on to late leads and making the playoffs.

Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen spoke in incredible detail about the process of keeping this New York City native in town, "Dellin Betances, he's one of the most accomplished and dominant relief pitchers in Major League Baseball. 

"As you'll see here in a couple minutes, he's an imposing figure. He's got size, he's got strength, and he's got swagger when he takes the mound. His power stuff can overmatch and overpower and, ultimately, he can intimidate power hitters. In short, he's everything we want here at the New York Mets.

"I want to take a couple minutes here to talk about our signing process, in part because I think it demonstrates and illustrates that three things can be a good recipe for success: persistence, collaboration, and creativity. When those three things are combined with a group of motivated people, good things can happen.

"This process started way back in November. Jim Murray, Michael Stovall, two of Dellin Betances' agents, were out in Arizona, they met with us. What was clear there was we were interested in Dellin, and Dellin had many interested teams. Jim expressed at that point in time that this process was not going to be a fast one. They were going to evaluate the market, they were going to provide all the information to Dellin, and ultimately, Dellin would make a decision after he narrowed the field of teams. 

"Since they weren't in a rush, we needed to go through the rest of our offseason priorities. We focused our attention on starting pitching. When we got to the winter meeting, we focused, as you all know now, Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello. We felt that both of those pitchers added depth to our starting rotation and ceiling of accomplished, elite-caliber players. We began that with Jim Murray and Stovall at the winter meetings, ironically, because they also represented Rick Porcello, but throughout those negotiations with Rick, even at that point in time, we remained skeptical that we would ultimately be standing here today.

"Dellin had so many options, and since the free agent market is so uncertain, that it's always hard to say who's going to be the last team standing. So, we packed our bags, we moved back to Citi Field, and the leadership group in the baseball operations department bunkered in, huddled down, and ultimately talked about where we would go from here the rest of off the offseason.

"As we went through the considerations, one name kept popping up: Dellin, Dellin, Dellin.

"So, we knew coming out of the meeting that we had to make one final pitch, we had to make one final pursuit to see if we could somehow be the winning bid within the Dellin sweepstakes. What that did was it launched a four-day period of time of an intense process.

"(Manager) Carlos Beltran, Jeremy Hefner, our new pitching coach, (second baseman) Robinson Cano, Jeff Wilpon, our COO, and even Jeremy Faust, one of our R&D analysts, all made calls and presentations to Dellin and to the Jim Murray team to try to ultimately make the pitch on why we were the right team and why this was the best opportunity for Dellin going forward.

"Simultaneously, Jeff, David Cohen, our EVP and in-house general counsel, and I bunkered down and had a 72-hour session of brainstorming ideas, effectively trying to come up with one way to walk out of this situation with Dellin.

"Deal structures were complicated, but ultimately, we needed to find a way to meet all parties' interests. That's a normal process for us within the Mets organization. David, Jeff, and I are always sitting down reviewing proposals and also presenting them, but this one went above and beyond the call of duty given the unique deal structure that we laid out.

"Ultimately, Jim and Michael invited us to their offices in Midtown to meet with Dellin; it was an opportunity for us to sit face to face. At that meeting, we continued to reiterate our sincere interest, but it was really a two-way conversation, and the highlights of that conversation were three things. We listened to Dellin, and he communicated the following: he wanted to be fairly compensated, naturally, wanted to be fairly compensated; he wanted to dominate, and he wanted to win.

"Most players want to be treated fairly from a financial standpoint; dominate was an interesting word because he didn't want to just re-establish his health, didn't want to go out and perform his normal job, he wanted to dominate, and he expressed that very clearly, and lastly, he wanted to apply that dominance to a winning culture and a winning environment.

"We were fortunate to be able to sell him on our winning environment, to the point where, after our meeting, Jim, Stovall, Dellin all left the room. They left me sequestered in a conference room for about 45 minutes all by myself. When Jim and Stovall came back, they gave a very clear expression: Dellin wanted to be with the New York Mets.

"At that point, it was our task, the team of negotiators at that point in time, to figure a way out. The only failure at this point was if we couldn't make a deal, and that's what we did. Seven hours, probably half a dozen breakout sessions later, FaceTime calls, different deal structures, ultimately we had a handshake, and on Christmas Eve, Dellin became a member of the New York Mets."

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