One of the great stresses I have experienced at the end of this season, and into this off season, is the question about who the Yankees closer will be in 2015. I’ve said in the past that I was impressed with David Robertson’s performance as closer this season, and that I am hopefully he somehow remains on the team for next season – or better yet, many more seasons down the road.
Reports indicate that the Yankees will make a qualifying offer to Robertson tomorrow – at this year’s cost of $15.3 million. I’m still in shock over the price of qualifying offers for this year, but I still feel this is a deal worth at least considering.
I don’t understand why the Yankees haven’t already signed this deal like they did earlier this year with Brett Gardner. Both Robertson and Gardner have come up through the Yankee system, and are valuable parts of the team in their own way. Even with the uncertainty of whether Robertson would be able to fill the void left by Mariano Rivera retiring, he was still a valuable relief pitcher as Rivera’s setup man, and during his previous five years pitching at the major league level.
It wasn’t until the end of spring training that the Yankees decided Robertson would in fact be the closer in 2014, but he lasted the full season and produced very respectable numbers. His record from the season was 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA and 39 saves in 44 chances. While several sources expected him to easily earn 40 saves during the season, 39 saves is the 3rd highest save total in the American League – or tied for 8th highest in both leagues (with Steve Chishek and Jonathan Pabelbon). He wasn’t always perfect, but that’s not a bad year. There were a few blown saves (I saw one in person in Baltimore – I think all of Camden Yards could hear my heart breaking) and there were runners on base a little more than fans would like. Quite honestly, no one is perfect, and he had big shoes to fill.
After he retired, Mariano Rivera wrote a book called The Closer. In the book, he refers to David Robertson as “my bullpen buddy.” It’s a nice image – a baseball legend in his final seasons, sitting next to the young pitcher who very well may take his job. But it’s more than just a friendship – it’s David Robertson literally sitting next to greatness.
There’s no doubt that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in this history of the game. Fans who hate the Yankees even admit that – because he was an extraordinary pitcher, is a wonderful man in general, and there will never be anyone like him. There is likely one pitcher in the world (Robertson) who can say he learned how to do his job from the greatest ever.
But there’s the money, and $15.3 million is a lot of money – a whole lot more than the $5.25 million Robertson made this year. Are pitchers worth that much? Is a relief pitcher worth that much? Is David Robertson worth that much?
To put it in perspective, Mariano Rivera did not make $15 million a season until 2008 – when he was in his 13th year and the world already knew he was going down in baseball history.
Yankees management stated an intent to bring the payroll under $189 million. It’s a nice goal – but in reality, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. There were already multiple bad contracts in place with players making far too much money for what they were producing on the field. More big contracts were handed out with the signing of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann, plus the Brett Gardner 4 year extension. If the Yankees want to get under $189 million, they need to be realistic about the contracts in place now, and realize it’s not going to happen for several years.
So now we’re at the eve of the alleged $15.3 million qualifying offer. Do the Yankees actually make the offer? Does David Robertson accept the offer?
If the Yankees do in fact present Robertson with a qualifying offer, I think it shows they’re serious about wanting him back on the team next year.
Robertson could take the offer and make a huge sum of money – and likely more money for one season than any other deal would get him. But, it is a one year deal and he would go through all the uncertainty again next season (bring me and my nerves right along with him).
Alternatively, what if he leaves? The obvious choice is to have Dellin Betances take over as closer. No doubt he’s been great this year – but he only has 3 years and 78 games of experience. There’s a chance he could become a closer in the future – but in his career he has only one save to date (which I actually saw in Cleveland this past July). Before Robertson officially became the closer, he had 8 saves in 6 seasons. If there was uncertainty surrounding Robertson last year, it seems logical for even more uncertainty about Betances.
Also if Robertson leaves, there is a good chance he comes back to face the Yankees wearing another uniform. If he doesn’t sign with New York, outside interest will certainly be there – look at the bullpen collapses in the playoffs this year (Detroit particularly comes to mind). Do the Yankees want to take that risk?
There is the saying “you can never have enough pitching” and that is becoming especially true in recent seasons. The one strength the Yankees had this year was pitching. The big bats who were supposed to be hitting the homeruns and driving in runs did not produce. There are a few big name pitchers who are free agents this off season, and there are rumors the Yankees may be interested. Is it worth the risk to sign a big name (and therefore big money) starter and risk a weaker bullpen? Think again about the Tigers in the ALDS and their trio of Cy Young starters.
Yes, we have Betances. Yes, there are great pitchers coming up through the farm system now. Currently, we have some pitching strength and a now proven closer other teams will be jumping to sign if he walks. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Ideally, I would actually like Robertson to decline the qualifying offer and work out a deal with the Yankees to stay for a few more years. I think it gives both sides a little more confidence going forward. Yankees should have made this deal months ago – but hopefully they get it right now.