While no one can completely replace the legendary Mariano Rivera as the New York Yankees closer, David Robertson filled the void beautifully in 2014. Robertson filled those gigantic shoes by successfully converting 39 of 44 save opportunities in his first season as a closer, and now that he is a costless agent, he is looking to cash in on his success. He has already rejected the $15.3-million qualifying offer the Yankees made to him earlier in November in search for a multi-year deal with a high-end salary.
MLB.com's Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch reports that Yankees are in negotiations with Robertson on a mutil-year deal to keep him in the Bronx. Hoch says that Robertson is seeking a salary comparable to that of Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who made $13 million in 2014. Papelbon is in the back end of a five-year, $63-million contract (including a vesting option for 2016) that he signed with the Phillies in November of 2011. He will make the same $13 million next year, and if he finishes 55 games in 2015, he gets that fifth year in 2016 for the same paycheck.
Robertson, who has pitched seven years in pinstripes, has always had the talent, and he got the opportunity this year. In addition to his 39 saves, Robertson also had a record of 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 1.2 WAR in 63 appearances for the second-place Yankees. He has a career record of 25-19, 2.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.74 FIP, 312 holds, 47 saves, and a 12.0 K/9-IP ratio. He is CBS Sports.com's #10 costless agent pitcher and second-ranked reliever behind only Andrew Miller. With numbers like these that he will likely parallel at age 30 next season and beyond, one can understand his search for a lucrative contract.
Robertson has also pitched in four postseasons as a Yankee and is undefeated (3-0) with a 3.71 ERA in 19 relief appearances against the best teams in the Majors.
Hoch quoted Yankees manager Joe Girardi on Veterans' Day discussing Robertson's success. Girardi knows the business side of the game, and although he would like to have his closer back in 2015, he understands why Robertson will test the costless agent market. Said Girardi,
"David was great for us. You know that you face those situations every time that people have the opportunity to become costless agents. He's been a tremendous pitcher, he has helped us be very successful here and helped us be a World Series club as well. He was great."
At age 29 this offseason, Robertson may see the best opportunity to land a contract of his own choosing now.
The Yankees, though, have a closer in waiting should Robertson take his services elsewhere. Dellin Betances, a 26-year-old rookie in 2014, has already proved his worth as a bonafide Major League reliever. Betances was 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and one save in 70 appearances. He set the Yankees' reliever record for strikeouts with 135, breaking Rivera's old mark. Betances could fit right into the ninth-inning role, but the Yankees might prefer the more-experienced Robertson.
General manager Brian Cashman is not afraid to spend money. He brings in multiple high-priced costless agents seemingly every year. This time, though, he has a chance to reward one of his own home-grown stars in offering Robertson a multi-year contract. Teams do not win without a strong closer, and the Yankees need one as much as anyone else. Re-signing Roberston could very well turn out as the best move Cashman makes this offseason.