Yuniesky Betancourt Still Plays Baseball

Say what you want about Betancourt, but for nearly a half-decade he’s led all shortstops in BMI and body fat percentage.

Today the Philadelphia Phillies signed Yuniesky Betancourt to a minor league contract, and the free agent infielder (who finally got moved off of shortstop to second base last year) has been saved from involuntary retirement.

Eight years ago last Friday Betancourt became a Mariner officially, signing with the Bill Bavasi regime out of Cuba. Betancourt was 23 years old then, and played more than 1800 innings of average-ish defense in 2005 and 2006 combined. Looking back, it may be hard to squint your eyes hard enough to remember when people thought that Betancourt was some discipline and repetition away from being the Mariners best defensive shortstop since Omar Vizquel.

Betancourt gained more weight than discipline, and his lack of discipline remained at the plate also, a forgivable trait for a good defender, but one less forgivable for a fat sloth that was a shortstop by name only.

The Mariners traded Betancourt to Kansas City for Dan Cortes and Derrick Saito midway through the 2009 season, and in 2009 and 2010, the two seasons before the Royals traded him as part of a trade that brought Alcides Escobar to Kansas City, Betancourt was worth -0.5 WAR. Betancourt was worth about -21 runs in terms of UZR in those two seasons, despite playing less than 2000 innings for the Royals in the field for those two seasons.

Betancourt rebounded from a tough season at the plate in 2009, posting an 84 wRC+ in 2010, roughly average for shortstops that year. In his next 800 plate appearances, spanning 2011 and 2012, Betancourt has dropped to a 73 wRC+, and posted a comical, albeit unstable based on sample size -35.0  UZR/150 at second base in 382.1 innings in 2012, after returning to the Royals.

The Mariners traded Betancourt for a guy that pitched 16.0 innings in a Mariners uniform before he was released, and a LOOGY that hasn’t even pitched in the minors since 2010, and the Mariners won the trade by 0.4 WAR.