Over the past twenty years, a slim lead in the ninth inning has hardly been anything to fret about. Mariano Rivera was only the greatest closer of all time, and even though he's not a future Hall of Famer (yet), David Robertson did an admirable job last season. However, good ole D-Rob and his killer curve are off to the Windy City and the AL Central, and so the Yankees will enter 2015 looking once more for a new closer.
Thankfully, they have two excellent options in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Betances was one of the lone bright spots last season for New York, and Miller was a great option out of the pen for the both the Red Sox and the Orioles (he really showed his value in the postseason, throwing seven scoreless innings as Baltimore made their way to the ALCS). While Miller recently told reporters that he doesn't much care if he's the closer or not, the fact remains that the Yankees probably will need to pick one of these two to be the team's go-to guy in the ninth inning. Who is better suited to the job?
The case for Betances
Betances in a known quantity in the Bronx. While he's not a "proven closer," he's certainly proven that he has the ability to be one of the best relievers in the majors. He made the All Star team last season in his rookie year while pitching to the tune of a 1.40 ERA, a 1.64 FIP, and a 13.50 K/9 ration in 90 innings of work. In terms of fWAR, Betances was the best reliever in the league last year, as his 3.2 fWAR beat out the likes of Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrel. Betances knows what it's like to work high-leverage innings for the Yankees. Even if he can't quite match his 2014 numbers, he's proven his mettle and should get a chance to show that he can be the next great Yankee closer.
Besides, it doesn't hurt that, as a local kid and Yankee product, Betances becoming the closer could turn him into one of the stars of the new Yankees. With the Core Four now just a memory and Alex Rodriguez a pariah, the Yankees need a new group of stars. Betances the Closer could be just what the team needs, both on the field and off.
The case for Miller
Betances might've led the league in fWAR, but Miller wasn't far behind. He accumulated 2.3 fWAR in 2013 (6th overall), while posting stats even better than Betances - his 1.51 FIP and 14.87 K/9 are both superior to the numbers Betances managed. Miller also has more experience than Betances, and we all know the Yankees love experience. He's pitched nearly 500 major league innings (compared to 97.2 for Betances); however, much of that came as a starter. Still, since 2012 when he became a full-time reliever, Miller has been quite good - he posted a 3.17 FIP in 2012 and a 3.05 FIP in 2013 before his stellar numbers last season - establishing a track record of success a bit longer than Betances'. And, while it doesn't matter much to us the fans, the Yankees did just sign Miller to quite a large contract for a reliever (4 years, $36 million). Such a sizable investment might convince the Yankees that, to get the best bang for their buck, Miller should be the one closing games in 2015.
Could the Yankees sign a closer?
It's unlikely, but the Yankees could still sign a closer. Plenty of high profile names remain, including Francisco Rodriguez and former Yankee Rafael Soriano. Rodriguez had a bit of a resurgence in 2014, notching 44 saves for the Brewers, although his FIP was an ugly 4.50 and he gave up 1.85 home runs per nine innings. Soriano, who's team option was declined by the Washington Nationals this offseason, was a bit better than K-Rod last season (3.08 FIP, 0.58 HR/9), but he's not quite the pitcher he was a couple years ago. Also, Joba Chamberlain is still available (just kidding, folks - I mean, he is still available, but there's no way he's coming back).
None of these unsigned players offer any sort of real upgrade over Miller or Betances, so it's unlikely the Yankees will bring any of them on. More than likely, they'll let Miller and Betances compete in Spring Training before deciding on who's going to take the ninth. If I had to guess, I'd bet on Betances being the closer - while Miller beat him in a couple statistical categories last year, Betances' workload was quite a bit higher, and he still managed to maintain an elite level of play. Besides, the idea of Betances following Mo and D-Rob in the line of homegrown Yankee closers is undeniably intriguing. Either way, the Yankees can't really make a bad decision here - whichever order these two hurlers come into the game, opposing hitters will have their work cut out for them.