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Brewers decline option on Yuni Betancourt

(GIF from NotGraphs)

It looks like fears of Doug Melvin being fooled by a hot postseason were unfounded — the Brewers have declined their 2012 option on Yuniesky Betancourt. Happy Yuni Liberation Day, Milwaukee.

Betancourt’s team option for 2012 was for $6 million, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it was declined. The year is being bought out for $2 million, which was perhaps not-so-coincidentally the amount of cash the Royals sent along with him in December’s trade for Zack Greinke. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Mariners were also paying for another million, meaning the Brewers were really only on the hook for half of the $6 million total he’ll be making for the past year.

So in the end, Betancourt didn’t end up costing the Brewers much in terms of salary. On the field, he didn’t exactly provide much, either.

FanGraphs had him at 0.5 WAR to end the year, while Baseball Reference had him at 0.7 WAR. The Brewers’ frequent use of infield shifts helped hide some of his lack of range, but there were still plenty of plays that left you wondering what the hell he was doing.

We knew Betancourt’s defense would be bad going into the year, and it was about as bad as expected. Single-season UZR numbers can fluctuate wildly, but Yuni’s UZR of -6.9 this year made 2011 the 5th straight season he’s posted a negative UZR, with the best mark during that stretch being -4.3 in 2007. He was also -6 in Defensive Runs Saved, and only converted 292 plays on 376 balls hit into his zone. That .777 rate was the worst among all qualified shortstops in 2011. He’s just a bad shortstop, and anyone who brings him in has to accept that.

Still, there was hope that his bat would be able to make up for some (if not much) of those defensive deficiencies. Like the bad defense, we knew going into the year that Betancourt wouldn’t get on base, either. He hadn’t cracked a .300 OBP since 2008. He was expected to produce a decent amount of pop, though, coming off a 16-homer season in Kansas City.

Betancourt did end up hitting 13 home runs for the Brewers, but his 2.7% BB% tied a career-worst and was the lowest in baseball this year. In terms of OBP, only one shortstop finished worse than Betancourt (.271) — Atlanta’s Alex Gonzalez (.270), who at least has the reputation of being a good defensive shortstop.

At the end of the day, were a lot of us too hard on Yuni from the start? Perhaps, considering he was never meant to be much more than a throw-in in the Greinke trade as a guy to just stand at short for a year. It’s hard to gripe about a team that won 96 games, a division title, and came two wins short of making the World Series, but it is fair to wonder if things would have turned out differently with better defensive play in the NLCS.

Assuming he isn’t brought back at a fraction of that $6 million he would have been owed, Yuni’s time with the Brewers would be forgettable, if it weren’t for the multitude of jokes we’ve already made about him. A few years from now, though, we likely won’t remember much about his time here other than the fact that he wasn’t very good.

Think of him as the shortstop version of Jason Kendall — still capable of some good flashes defensively, but ultimately a liability at a premium position that was also an outs machine with the bat.