Much of the Yankees buzz at the Winter Meetings has been about whether Aroldis Chapman would accept their pursuits, or if they might turn to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen. There is plenty of justified debate about whether this strategy even makes sense given that this team likely needs more than just a closer to compete in 2017, but that seems to be the top priority.
However, an alternative exists to forking over the richest contract for a reliever in MLB history. Jon Heyman was the first to mention that the Yankees are still fond of David Robertson, their former All-Star setup man and closer who signed with the White Sox after 2014. Then Sweeny Murti reported that the Yankees have indeed held trade talks with Chicago regarding Robertson:
With offers out to Chapman & Jansen, is there an answer coming soon? #Yankees have also talked trades, including #WhiteSox David Robertson.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) December 7, 2016
This morning, Bryan Hoch also mentioned that Robertson has come up in the team’s possible plans for 2017.
Robertson will be 32 in April and has two years and $25 million remaining on his four-year deal, which is much more reasonably priced than anything Chapman or Jansen will receive on the open market. (He also has a limited no-trade clause, but it probably wouldn’t be a tough sell to convince him to return.) Obviously, Chapman and Jansen are superior pitchers to Robertson, but there is considerable risk in investing over $60 million across five years to even the best closers. There has even been talk of offers going as high as six years or $92 million.
It would not be a crazy strategy at all to ultimately abstain from these contracts, particularly given the present “retooling” state of the Yankees. So Robertson makes plenty of sense. He has pitched to a 3.44 ERA (83 ERA-) and 3.04 FIP (71 FIP-) with an 11.5 K/9 over his two years on the south side of Chicago, notching 71 saves in 85 chances for an 84 percent success rate. For perspective, all-time great lefty closer Billy Wagner’s career rate was 86 percent, just a couple ticks higher, so that shouldn’t be a concern.
The right-hander did slide back a little bit in 2016 with a 4.6 BB/9, but that doesn’t mean he’s terrible or anything. After all, Chapman’s career walk rate is over four batters per nine. If the Yankees did work out a trade for Robertson, it might not be an egregious cost given the slight decline and the White Sox looking to unload after the Chris Sale trade. It’s a reasonable play, and as long time listener noted, they could very well flip him at the 2017 trade deadline if the first half goes as 2016 did.
What do you think? Should the Yankees bring back D-Rob? It would be awesome to see those high socks again...