Hello, my name is Kunj Shah and I love David Robertson.
I may or may not have mentioned it a few times on here, but I really do. He’s my favorite current Yankee and he has been since the 2009 playoffs. I was very upset when the Yankees chose not to re-sign him after 2014, and was ecstatic when they brought him back in 2017. Now, I’m very upset because people keep talking about trading him.
The Yankees have set a goal for the 2018 season and that is is to lower their payroll enough to sneak under the luxury tax threshold. It became trickier to do when the 2017 Yankees decided to be one of the best teams in baseball. This year’s team has to be good enough to win the World Series, but also stay under the threshold.
That might be a problem for most general managers, but Brian Cashman is anything but ordinary. He managed to improve the squad (hello, Giancarlo Stanton) while setting it up so the team will finally clear he threshold. Like I said, he’s not ordinary. Yet, the team is not without its needs.
Cashman could use another starter and at least one infielder. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many great, cheap options available via the trade market. If they are, they come at too steep a prospect price for Cashman’s liking. This turns his attention to the free agent market, which is where my problem comes into play.
Cashman says he's talked to Darvish's agent, but says the team would have to clear $$$ space to add him. #Yankees— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) January 11, 2018
There are players that could be had for only cash money such as Yu Darvish and Todd Frazier. The problem there is that adding one or both of those salaries would push the Yankees’ threshold limit which is out of the question. If they do want to add those players, they’re going to have to shed some salary. The problem is that there aren’t many places left to do that.
Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aroldis Chapman are the only players on the payroll with salaries at $15 million or higher. They’re not moving Stanton, and pursuing a trade of Tanaka is counterproductive. They’d love to move Ellsbury but that’s seeming more and more like a fool’s dream. Meanwhile Chapman comes with a no-trade clause of his own. The next highest salary? David Robertson’s $13 million.
It makes sense, then, that a few outlets have talked about the Yankees possibly trading Robertson to help their tax threshold goals. He’s the most “movable” of their high-salaried players, and he’d fetch a decent return. While it makes sense from that perspective, the Yankees would only be hurting themselves by trading Robertson.
Obviously if the team doesn’t make any more moves, this conversation is moot. As currently constructed, they are projected to be about $23 million under the threshold, leaving plenty of room to play with for mid-season call-ups and trades. If the Yankees want to add a Darvish or Frazier, that’s where Robertson comes in.
With Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, and Adam Warren still in the bullpen, the Yankees would be trading from a position of strength. Even after potentially losing Robertson, the bullpen would still be one of the best in the league. The problem there is that while the bullpen projects to be great, it’s not without its questions.
Chapman struggled at times last year and even lost his closer’s job for a while. Betances was great early on, but later had troubles with his command and consistency. We’re not sure if Green is the real deal or just a one-year wonder. With Robertson there, it’s okay if any one of these options fail because he’ll be there to pick up the pieces. Without him, the situation is murky at best.
The Yankees need Robertson as a pillar to fall back on in case the rest of the plan fails. Since 2011, he has been one of the best and most consistent relievers in baseball. What makes him so good is not only his ability, but his versatility and willingness to take any role asked of him. Last season he pitched as early as the sixth inning, closed, and even had a long relief stint in the Wild Card Game.
Robertson is just one part of arguably baseball’s best bullpen, but he might be the most important piece. The Yankees have high hopes in 2018 and their bullpen will be counted on to help them meet those expectations. While the team could withstand the hit, they’d be weakening a position of strength. They can’t risk trading David Robertson.