As spring training inches toward games that count, contract extension season dwindles away.
The Yankees have shown that they are more than willing to offer extensions to their core players, inking Luis Severino to a four-year, $40 million extension and Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million deal.
The Yankees have reportedly discussed a contract extension with Dellin Betances, and there are clear reasons to view the right-handed reliever as an extension candidate.
Betances has been among the more dominant relievers in the game since 2014, generating a 14.6 K/9 rate during the five-year span covering 373 1/3 innings. Betances provides the Yankees familiarity unlike they would have with relievers on next offseason's free-agent market. Betances has proven to be a durable reliever, not hitting the injured list since the 2012 season (when he pitched entirely in the minors). Finally, signing Betances to an extension now might provide some contract savings vs. his hitting the open market and trying to sign him with other clubs bidding.
Alternatively, there are reasons the Yankees might be hesitant and better off to wait on signing Betances to an extension.
First, as dominant as Betances can be, he has endured extended periods in which he's lost absolute command of anything he throws. The inconsistency can rear its head dead in the middle of a hot streak without seeing it coming. Further, while Betances is still considered among the elite relievers in the game, the level of dominance has not reached "best in the game" levels since his insanely productive 2014-15 seasons. What happens if Betances falls into one of these downturns and never recuperates?
Another aspect the Yankees are likely considering is Betances' age. He will play this season at 31 years old, meaning an extension would take him into the stage at which many pitchers begin to battle performance declines.
The Yankees do not appear to averse to signing relievers in their early 30s to long-term deals, having done so this past offseason with 31-year-old Zack Britton (three years, $39 million) and 33-year-old Adam Ottavino (three years, $27 million), but how many such pitchers do they want to employ? Likewise, there is the potential that the Yankees inked Britton and Ottavino believing they could ride their arms in case Betances eventually decides he would prefer to test the free agency.
Another reason to be tentative about an extension for Betances has to do with yet another reliever the Yankees have under contract: Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees southpaw closer does have the ability to opt out of his current contract at the end of this season, which could entice the Yankees to focus on Betances. However, expensive closer contracts like Chapman's have seemingly begun being viewed as outsized, as seen with Craig Kimbrel's inability to find a team to this time. This could mean that Chapman will simply stay put.
Also, Chapman himself is 31 years old, so again the notion of a bullpen being mostly built with currently top flight relievers on the downward slope of anticipated production could be a dicey proposition.
For as many reasons as there are to desire an extension with Betances, the Yankees have just as many to consider to avoid entering into an agreement at least right away. As such, the Yankees might be best off to how Betances' performs this season along with how the entire bullpen situation plays out before pushing hard on retaining his services beyond 2019.