After trading former closer Huston Street, the Colorado Rockies tabbed Rafael Betancourt as their closer. The Rockies have decided to give Betancourt two options worth $4.25 million in 2013 and 2014, and he will make $4 million this season. The former Indians set-up man has been worth at least 1.5 WAR during each of the past three seasons and should slide in nicely into the closer role. He’s already proven himself as a strong high-leverage reliever who had a WPA of 1.93 last season to go with 25 shutdowns and just 7 meltdowns.
Last season, Rafael Betancourt struck out 10.54 batters per nine and walked just 1.16 hitters every nine innings, and those are outstanding peripherals that led to a 2.53 FIP. He was worth 1.6 WAR last season, but the fact that he is a fly ball pitcher (29.1 career GB%) with Coors Field as a home ballpark (1.01 homers per nine last season) doesn’t help him much. He was a little lucky last season with a .267 BABIP against, but WAR normalizes all these different factors. A 1.6 WAR is well above average for a reliever, and only fifteen reliever were worth more than Betancourt last season.
If it is assumed that Betancourt is a 1.5 WAR closer, which is a correct assumption given his peripherals and recent WAR totals, then Betancourt should be making $7 million per year. Far worse relievers have received similar contracts, because Frank Francisco is a closer worth 0.5 WAR who received $6 million per year. Betancourt is about three times more valuable and is making almost $2 million less than him.
“Basically, the Rockies executed the mutual option I had in my contract for 2013 and added another in 2014, which guarantees me work for the next two years and the possibility of a third followed in Colorado,” said Betancourt. “I prefer [security] first, I am happy the deal.”
Given the inflated closer market, the Rockies were smart in extending Rafael Betancourt for two more seasons. They won’t be forced to overpay if Betancourt ever left, and they gave barely over $4 million for one of the best relievers in baseball. He is one of the more underrated RPs in the game, and the Rockies have their new closer at a price that is much less than his market value. This was a definite win for the organization, and Betancourt will be a good closer over the next three seasons for the Rockies.