What does the future hold for David Robertson and the Yankees?

By: Jesse Garcia

As the New York Yankees head deeper into the 2014-2015 offseason, a position that has many question marks surrounding it is the closer. David Robertson’s contract has expired and he has already turned down the Yankees’ one-year $15.3 million qualifying offer. Had he accepted that, Robertson would have been the highest paid closer for one season in Major League Baseball history.

Instead, Robertson wanted something more secure than a one-year deal and is now seeking “Papelbon money,” which refers to something closer to what Jonathan Papelbon got from the Phillies back in 2011 - a four year, $50 million contract.

Statistically, Robertson does deserve a contract that would pay him more than $40 million. Robertson has averaged just over 57 appearances per season over his seven seasons in pinstripes, posting a career ERA of 2.81. Most impressively, Robertson has struck out 524 batters in 393 1/3 innings pitched, which marks 12 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

However, the risk with Robertson is that he has only had one true season as a closer. Robertson was an 8th inning set-up man for most of his career before making the transition to closer when the great Mariano Rivera retired. Robertson was very impressive in his first season as a closer picking up 39 saves in 44 attempts.

It’s likely Robertson will be getting paid big money, but the question Yankee fans are asking is if the Yankees will be the team spending that money. The Yankees have the money for Robertson but might look in-house if Robertson really wants a deal closer to what Papelbon received.

If Robertson does go sign elsewhere, the Yankees could look to move Dellin Betances, a 2014 American League All-Star and Rookie of the Year finalist, into the closer role. Betances has the physical tools to be a dominant closer in this league but the Yankees might also like to keep their young weapon as their set-up man, as long as another reliable closer is on their roster.

The Yankees could also look to add a veteran free agent to fill the closer role. Robertson is the premier name on the closer free agent list but there are also cheaper options available such as Jason Grilli, Casey Janssen, and Fransisco Rodriguez. If they go that route, the Yankees could sign someone to a short deal and allow Betances to pick up more experience before letting him become the man in the ninth.

The Yankees and their fans have been a bit spoiled when it comes to closing pitchers. In fact, it’s been about two decades since the Yankees have been in a situation like this. Mariano was the guy from 1997 until Robertson succeed him after the 2012 season.

But now that Robertson wants big-time money, the Yankees might have to look elsewhere. So the golden question here for general manager Brian Cashman is this: Is David Robertson worth the money he is asking for?

Obviously there are many positions that the Yankees need to figure out - including shortstop - but if the Yankees were able lock up Robertson they could potentially have one of the top five bullpens in the league. Getting to that point would be beneficial to the Yankees, especially with the starting pitching in a state of disarray.

So that answer to this question is this: Yes, locking up Robertson should be at the top of Brian Cashman’s to-do list this winter.



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