After one whole year as Yankees closer, David Robertson is now gone. He signs a four-year, $46 million contract with the White Sox and will likely be much more appreciated in Chicago than he ever was by both fans and management in New York. I mean, the Yankees didn't even make an official offer.
For one reason or another, despite his success over the last few seasons, and his status as one of the best relievers in all of baseball, the Yankees never really trusted D-Rob. Sure, he had control issues when he was younger, but he has since turned things around to become a consistent weapon in the back of the bullpen. Still, the Yankees had no interest in extending him to a team-friendly non-closer contract before the 2014 season when Robertson was interested, and elected to see if he could possibly endure the magical difficulty of baseball in the ninth inning. To the surprise of no one I consider a friend, Robertson passed with flying colors and New York's chance to have an effective closer under control for several more years went up in smoke.
This all happened because, for one reason or another, the trust was just not there. They were hesitant to give him the closing job in the first place after multiple years of success, but now seem to be ready to pass the torch onto Dellin Betances after only one. Sure, a majority of relievers are fungible, but that just gives more reason to hold onto the best ones. As we've seen with the Royals this year and the Tigers over the last few, elite relievers are not replaceable. For all we know, Dellin's season could have been a fluke. He was so good this year that his 2015 season can only be a disappointment to some degree and he was so valuable because of his usage that making him the closer could actually make him worse. I don't know the math, but I have to imagine that there's a better chance that Robertson will have one of his typical seasons than Betances will dominate again like he did in 2014. It's just not likely to happen.
Yes, $46 million is a lot to spend on a relief pitcher, but if you're also willing to spend $36 million, and you're the Yankees, what exactly is the difference? $10 million sounds like a lot of savings, but that money would be spread over a four-year period, meaning that for the 2015 season, by going with Andrew Miller over Robertson, they will save exactly $2.5 million. That's one Chris Young and this is still the Yankees we're talking about. Did they really feel that Robertson wasn't worth that extra couple of million? Especially when they once gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million to play for a month and actually paid Rafael Soriano virtually the same AAV to be the set-up man. This doesn't sound like they lacked the money. They have the money, and they've spent it on stupider things. This is about Robertson, and for whatever reason, they didn't value him the way the rest of baseball does.
This begs the question why they didn't just trade him last year. If they had no intention of bringing him back, why hold onto him? They did the same thing with Robinson Cano the year before. Is the facade of competing more important to them than actually making sound baseball decisions? The Yankees don't exactly light the world on fire when it comes to developing prospects, so there's no way they can see a first-round sandwich pick being as close to valuable as what David Robertson would offer the team over the next four years. And of course, this is going to bring up the idea that, for whatever reason, the Yankees value other teams' free agents over their own. It's like because they've been living with them for the last few years, they forget what they actually have. The organization already faces enough grief over the lack of homegrown stars, and yet when they have them, they either chase them off or act uninterested. The Yankees will now let Jon Lester go and dump all their money into Max Scherzer, sacrifice their much more valuable first round pick, and make it seem all ok because of that sandwich pick.
I'm not as against not signing Robertson as I am against the reason for him not coming back. This isn't really about him, it's about what this means. The Yankees are cutting payroll. Their one strength of an essentially endless budget is now gone, and, if not this year, then in the next few years, we'll finally have a team that is under the luxury tax threshold, the Steinbrenner will be happy, and the team's mediocrity will continue to keep the franchise in a stagnant pool of money. As long as they get a big, flashy guy like Scherzer and talk up how much money they are pouring into the team, the masses will lap it all up and continue to pay top-dollar to go see an 85-win team struggle. Rinse, repeat, ca-ching. Sleight of hand.