Pondering a Mariano Rivera trade as the Yankees waste his final season

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Yankees outright Brent Lillibridge to Triple-A
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

I guess the only way to start this post is by saying there is no chance in hell the Yankees will trade Mariano Rivera. Absolutely zero. I’m more confident in that than anything I’ve ever written on this site. They’ve got a big retirement ceremony planned for September, they’re giving away a bobblehead … there’s no chance they’re going to let Rivera wear anything other than Yankees pinstripes in his career. So consider this post an intellectual exercise, or something.

* * *

As of this morning, the Yankees have a 1.5% chance to make the postseason according to Baseball Prospectus. They are six games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column with four teams ahead of them. Yes, it’s still mathematically possible for the Yankees to make the playoffs, but it’ll take a minor miracle. Losing five of six to the lowly Padres and even lowlier White Sox was a huge blow to their October chances. Those were supposed to be the easy wins.

Rivera’s final season — earlier this week he reiterated to Andrew Seligman that he is definitely retiring after the season — is going to waste in the sense that the greatest postseason weapon in history won’t get a chance to pitch in the playoffs one last time. As it stands, his final postseason appearance will be Game Five of the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers. I now retroactively consider myself lucky to have been at that game even though it ended the team’s season.

Trading Mo would be a Ray Bourque-esque “thanks for all the great years, sorry we couldn’t contend but we’ll trade you elsewhere so you have one last crack at a championship” move rather than something designed to kick start a rebuild. The Yankees would be doing Rivera a solid by sending him to a team that gives him a chance for a sixth World Series title in his final year. The market would be limited because it would have to be a legit contending team, not a fringe contender who is fighting for a spot. No one would be trading for him hoping he’ll get them into the postseason. They’re trading for him to turn playoff games into eight-inning affairs.

The team that acquires Rivera would have to be all but guaranteed to go to the postseason. I see eight teams that fit the bill (eight teams already? it’s August 8th!):

  1. Athletics
  2. Braves
  3. Cardinals
  4. Dodgers
  5. Pirates
  6. Rays
  7. Red Sox
  8. Tigers

We can rule the Rays and Red Sox right out. That ain’t happening. The Athletics have a strong bullpen and a very good closer already, so adding Mo doesn’t make a ton of sense. Same goes for the Braves. The Pirates are expected to get Jason Grilli back from his injury in the not-too-distant future, so adding a replacement closer isn’t a high priority at the moment. That could change if Grilli has a setback or something.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

We’re left with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Tigers, all of whom have at least a five-game lead on a playoff berth. They also have a closer who was a setup man when the season started and a need for another arm in middle relief. Acquiring Rivera would push Edward Mujica, Kenley Jansen, or Joaquin Benoit, respectively, back into a seventh or eighth inning role. That’s much more realistic than say, pushing Craig Kimbrel into the eighth inning.

Obviously Rivera is one of a kind in that he’s still at the very top of his game (last night’s blown save notwithstanding) at age 43. I joked earlier this year that you don’t see many athletes walk away from the game in their prime like Mo, but there is some truth to that. He’s still as brutally effective as ever. There’s no good way to gauge his trade value though, it’s not like elite closers are traded two months prior to retirement/free agent all that often. I guess there’s 2009 Billy Wagner and 2007 Eric Gagne, right? That’s pretty much it, and neither was as good then as Rivera is now.

Wagner was fresh off Tommy John surgery at the time of the trade, as in just two appearances with the Mets before being traded fresh. He brought back absolutely nothing in return. The Mets should have kept him and taken the two draft picks after the season. What a terrible move. Gagne, on the other hand, brought back two big league ready and maybe useful pieces in David Murphy and Kason Gabbard as well as a low-level lottery ticket prospect (Engel Beltre). Gabbard flamed out and Beltre finally made it to the show this year, but Murphy turned into a pretty solid player. Pretty nice return for two months of a closer.

So would that be the framework for a Rivera trade? Two iffy but big league ready prospects and a low-level minor leaguer? Yeah I guess. Like I said, trading him would be more about getting him one last shot at the postseason than maximizing the return. It would be nice to get a useful piece in return however. Someone the Yankees could plug into the lineup or the pitching staff for the next five or six years. Doesn’t have to be a star, a Murphy-esque player would be just fine. Best of an unfortunate situation, you know?

I can’t imagine seeing Rivera in another uniform and thankfully I don’t have to worry about that ever happening. He’s not getting traded in the next few weeks. Like I said before, there’s zero chance of that happening. I know it, you know it, and he knows it. I just wanted to talk things out to see what kind of market and what kind of return the Yankees could expect if they did decide to move their closer to a contender as a personal favor in his final season. It’s a thought I never expected to entertain, that’s for sure.

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Yankees outright Brent Lillibridge to Triple-A
  • Tisha

    don’t eve bother to ponder Mike. The thought is revolting and insulting.

    • trr

      I mean hell, if they’re giving away a bobblehead….

      Seriously, this has less chance of happening then I do becoming the Yankee closer

    • jERRYjRC

      So Axisa is more confident in writing that Mariano will not get traded than this:

      46-3. Forty-damn-six strikeouts against three walks in winter ball. That’s not an accident, nor is it the product of umpires with very large kahunas strike zones. Joba pounds the zone with his heavy fastball, and his massive size adds to his intimidation factor. He’s the Yanks answer to Papelbon, and if his weight becomes that big of an issue, don’t be shocked to see him handle 9th inning duties once Mo realizes he’s too good for mortal men and retires. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: if anyone can do for the Yanks what John Lackey did for the Angels in 2002 – going from the low minors to winning game 7 of the Series in under 5 months – it’s Joba.

  • Brian Strawman

    Mike, I think you need a vacation.

  • Oy

    As I previously stated, Yanks need to make a hand shake agreement with Mo and offer him a qualifier, which he declines. Mo agrees to sign with Red Sox, who in turn forfeit their first round pick. During a prime time streaming press conference in Boston, during which Mo was supposed to sign his contract, Mo signs his contract while wearing a Boston jesey. Upon signing it, Mo rips of the jersey, revealing pinstripes and tears the contract into small pieces while announcing retirement.

    Later, in June/July while Red Sox are in town, Mo signs a one-day contract with Yanks, closes the game and has a bad ass retiring ceremony.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Now THIS is a fantasy scenario.

    • Gonzo

      I would have enjoyed it more if he would have blown Fuji Dust into Cherington’s eyes.

      • Robinson Tilapia


        • fat jeter

          Personally prefer the red mist, but i’m silly like that

    • trr

      I like the cut of your jib!

    • Shittyshittybangbang

      So….., when did Vince McMahon take over for Selig ?! I guess it works from a marketing aspect.

    • nickswishahisastahtingpitchah

      This is quite possibly the greatest comment in RAB history

    • fat jeter

      add a steel chair to that and some NWO theme music and you got something here

  • alen

    would be funny if the red sox get him

  • Jersey Joe

    This negativity has gone too far.

  • Scott

    I find it hard to believe you would write such as stupid column.
    I seriously had to check twice to make sure this was RAB.

  • Gonzo

    Just for the exercise and nothing else, maybe a Kolten Wong plus some minor pieces?

  • Mike

    You should be struck by lightning for even bring this topic up. Even tho this team is sinking like the titanic, is sin to even think about trading Mo, especially in his final season. Can we get this tool blocked from ever writing another blog on this site now?

    • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

      Wait, you want to shut down the site?

    • The Big City of Dreams

      That’s a little extreme

  • hornblower

    The Daily News column about ARod today was nonsense just designed to get him on the back page. This meme is equally silly.

  • Pat D

    Mike, I usually don’t get very critical of you, but why did you even bother to write this? Bored on an off day? Or just so you could say you addressed the “issue” so you’re not constantly pestered by people about the possibility?

    I mean, I only ask because you say “there’s zero chance of that happening.”

    • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

      Probably just because it’s fun sometimes to play the what-if game.

  • fat jeter

    goodness, he placed it under “musings” for a reason — as if the disclaimer wasn’t enough. the guy posts like 4 or 5 articles a day, you’re not going to like all of them.

    • cheddar


    • Robinson Tilapia

      I bet there will be at least three commenters who will actually advocate for this, in August nonetheless, in the name of “poor Mo deserves to go out a winner.”

      Poor Mo deserves to go out a Yankee.

      Other than having to read through people actually taking this seriously, yeah, I think it’s all in fun.

      Mike still gets the oaktag for this one, though. You decide whether that’s in fun or not.

  • Chilibacca

    Starting to get real tired of your shit Mike

  • Mike S

    At first I saw your headline and was like “whaaahat?” But now I get it… Your respecting Mo, and I say well done sir.

  • KD

    If you’re going to muse about something, how about an imagined conversation between Mo, The Captain, and Cano about what it means to be a Yankee?

  • cheddar

    If he hadn’t won a championship before, like Bourque, then I would absolutely try to move him to a contender. He would deserve that opportunity.

    I don’t feel badly for him with the season ending this way. He’s always been a team-first guy, and I think he’ll take it completely in stride.

    I would still love to see him start his last game in the Bronx, assuming we’re out of post-season contention.

  • Improbable Island’s Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR)

    You guys are amazing. Seriously. Did you even read the article?

    Anyway, in hypothetical “let’s trade Mo” bizzaro world I know you’re saying that the Yanks would be doing it because they’re doing Mo a solid.

    BUT, if we REALLY considered Mo a trade chip, I think the Yanks would hold out until they got more than you’re saying.

    You need to remember, Mo is more than just a postseason weapon and great regular season closer. He’s a market in and of itself. Attendence would go through the roof for every game they play (especially with the added shock of him actually being traded!).

    I think the Yanks could actually get a legitimately great, but one or two years away, prospect and solid big league ready prospects for Mo – not MUCH more than you asked, but more. What prospects these would be, I don’t know, but then this isn’t happening anyway.

    • Gonzo

      Yeah the response is a little overboard. I can fantasize about having sex with my co-workers… Well, you get the point. LOL

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Who’s that underneath your desk?

        • Gonzo

          We’re all a little perverted, right?

          • trr

            Obviously you’ve never been in my office :(

      • OldYanksFan

        oh oh…. I quit!

    • Mac

      I think that the reaction is more about Mike already deciding that the season is over: trade Mo rather than do their best to get back into contention with lots and lots of games left to play. After he basically decided it was over before it began. (People have consistently literally said they are tired of his pessimism… which people have been saying for months and months now. Even when they were in a good spot earlier in the season you’d have thought they were in last place reading this site.) Their chances aren’t very good, but rather than constantly whine some people would probably like to see the occasional constructive post. It’s all about the way you frame an issue. You can’t ignore the position they are in or their shortcomings, but the annoying part is constantly predicting doom going forward. At some point it’s just not healthy to devote your entire life to something you seem to hate with a passion. Mike seems to truly hate the Yankees based on his writing.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        but the annoying part is constantly predicting doom going forward.


        But if all he sees when he looks ahead is doom then is he wrong for being constantly pessimistic. If they had a good/great farm I don’t think he would feel the way he does. If they scrapped 189 then his opinion might change. But if they don’t then how can anyone expect this team to not have a worse season next yr.

  • Kramerica Industries

    (have not read post yet, so any thoughts there would be forthcoming later.)

    Show-off time. I clicked the link to the picture at the head of the article, and I see the date in the URL. 4/13/2011.

    Without looking this up, I am 95% certain that was a game where the Yankees were playing the Orioles, and they trailed going to the bottom of the 9th. They tied it up against Kevin Gregg (Jorge Posada got the tying hit, though I don’t recall if it was a HR, run-scoring single/double, etc.) and won it in the bottom of the 10th. Thus, Rivera must be pictured above pitching in the 10th inning of that game.

    Alright. I won’t look this up to confirm. I’ll let one of you guys do it.

    (as an asides – I always loved those old picture URL links, and I wish RAB went back to them. I notice that style hasn’t been around much when I’ve clicked this year, but between the Mo picture and the old picture of the Marcus Thames bat flip, which, I might point out, came in the August 30, 2010 game, a Monday game against Oakland where Javy Vazquez pitched lights out relief in relief of, oh, who the hell was it!?. Trevor Cahill also pitched like shit that night. What I remember most vividly that night is how awful MLB.tv was, perhaps explaining my complete lack of memory here about the Yankees SP.

    Mike loves that picture, so it was nice to see it linked again. Came during the zenith of the 2010 season, when the Yankees were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that launched them to their ultimate high watermark of 86-50 on the season. It was all downhill from there.)

    Ok, that’s QUITE enough.

    • Kramerica Industries

      DUSTIN MOSELEY! Holy shit. I would’ve never remembered him from a given starting pitching outing. I knew he was a Yankee in 2010, but his name was completely blanking there.

    • Mickey Scheister

      Are you left handed?

  • Rooting for U.S. Steel

    For those of us who enjoy alternative history (“Inglourious Basterds”, “The Plot Against America”, and many, many other examples) this was a perfectly fine post. Mike makes it pretty clear — both here and through much of his previous writing — that this scenario isn’t something he wants, endorses, or thinks has any plausibility.

    So why write it? Well, yes, it is an off day and given his — self-imposed — quota of four or five (if not more) pieces every friggin’ day during the season, he’s going to use devices like this once in a while. Any long-time content producer has these sorts of devices up his/her sleeves: Gail Collins (and Bill Safire before her) do news quizzes. Garry Trudeau uses/makes fun of these (Mike Doonesbury’s summer daydream/reader mail).

    More than that, though, it sure seems like a lot of folks are trying to wrap their heads around what the new wild card structure means for the various trading/player deadlines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that offseason free-agent markets are going to be thinner…

    So why not, on an off day, speculate about what an-ain’t-gonna-happen move might mean, both for Mo and for the Yankees?

    It’s a fantasy. A bit of speculative fiction. It can serve either as a springboard for discussions of a variety of implied issues, or it can be taken as heresy and serve as a springboard for Mike’s immolation — and more than that, a shutdown of an intellectual exercise.

    Cast your votes now as to which approach will be more gratifying. Me, I’m always up for chewing on a proposition or two…

  • The Hammer of Thor

    Mo traded? I would rather convert A-Rod to biofuel to recoup some of his salary.

  • b-rar

    Would he be able to wear 42 on another team?

    • trr


    • Former ACE MannyGeee

      THIS is the biggest question

  • Robinson Tilapia


  • I’m One

    I’d have no issue if the Yankees spoke to Mo and asked if he’d like to opportunity to compete for one more championship by being traded. I highly doubt he’d accept, but if he were offered the opportunity, that would be fine with me.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d also imagine whoever tried to deliver that message to Mo would recieve a #42 punch to the jaw.

      I actually think that, if such a thing were to happen, there not only would be backlash on the Yanks, there may even be backlash to the team he got traded to. This is like messing with mother nature.

    • trr

      my thought: he’d NEVER accept

  • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

    Read the headline and first sentence.


    Moving on.

  • Greg

    Maybe as a condition of trading Mo, we require the buyer to also take Arod?

  • Dale Mohorcic

    If this team can get Mo to 666 career saves, then as a religious man he will have to come back next year.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s tomorrow’s column.

    • Former ACE MannyGeee



  • bobby lucarelli

    wow….this blog has lost just about all credibility ….hypothetical ideas can be fun…but this is beyond ludicrous

    so long rab…now i know why nomass makes fun of you guys

    • Robinson Tilapia

      oaktag to the oaktag

  • Mike HC

    Would Mo really want to be traded from the Yanks, regardless of how good of a team he goes to? I doubt it. And it wouldn’t make any sense for the Yanks to trade him for some spare parts.

    If another team offered some godfather like offer in order to pry Mo from the Yanks, I think you really would almost have to do it. Of course, it would probably put a Ruth like curse on the team for the next 100 years.

  • trr

    huh? what? who?

    I have chunks of guys like that in my stool

  • whateves

    I’ve avoided RAB for most of this season due to the negativity when they’re winning yet alone this season. But Mo in any other uniform is simply a really ridiculous waste of space.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    They better not do this. I just booked a plane ticket to Houston to see the last two games, and mo on the mound for the last time. I was waiting until I lost all hope for the playoffs, last night did that for me. If they can somehow still get to the postseason, it will be at least a good opportunity to see minute maid and at least I will get to see Mo again, but I doubt that will happen.

  • BTG

    Mariano for Mike Trout!

  • Gerry

    Yankees should trade Rivera to Detroit because Mo would be a perfect fig for the Tiger’s staff in their quest for a World Series title. In return the Yankees could get Papa Gramde. Then you’d have the best relieved getting a chance at another World Series title and Papa Grz few would be able to get another pay cheque. Something the Yankees have become very good at, paying mediocre ball players big money while they pretend to be major leaguers.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Mike, suggest u go to church immediately and pray hard. I see many lightning bolts on the way to your head.

  • Nathan

    This was like reading an article on how to hit on your mother, steal from your church or how to prepare your own feces for dinner.

    It’s like having a thought that every part of your being asks “But why?”.

  • The Thumb

    Sad as it is, it is kind of fitting that he’ll retire with 42 postseason saves…

    • Mickey Scheister

      You beat me to it, I had (almost) the exact comment typed out. When I noticed that at the beginning of the season, it almost felt like he wasn’t going to get anymore in the postseason and apparently Cash & Co made sure of that by sitting on their hands.

  • Ramondo

    Tisha said “don’t eve bother to ponder Mike. The thought is revolting and insulting.” As crazy as it sounds, what if it happened? Yes, we would all hate it but I would want Mo to have 1 more shot! He is NOT getting it with the 2013 Yankees so why not someone else? We have all been spoiled since he became the closer in 97 and he has been unbelievable so, hypothetically speaking, let him go and have his last hurrah!

  • Jarrod

    The only positive about the Yankees really crappy season is that it is set in stone (barring injury etc) when Mo will throw his final pitch at the stadium – vs the Rays, and his final pitch – @ the Astros. Everyone can begin preparations early. I know myself and a group of mates have booked flights from Australia.

    • RetroRob

      That’s impressive. Are you going to NY and Houston?

      • Jarrod

        Nah just NY. Seems a more fitting way to see him for the first and only time.

  • Chris

    What a waste of time writing this article. How about something that could actually happen. Call ups that can help the team, updated waiver transactions etc. This is NY Post or TMZ material.

  • RetroRob

    Not only would the Yankees not trade Mo, I think there is a zero chance Mo would authorize a trade, even for a shot at the postseason one last time. He knows his legacy is a Yankee. He will go down with the ship. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case this season.

  • Mikhel

    Trade Mariano to the best team right now, the Red Sox could surely use him.

  • http://cornellatbat.tumblr.com Matthew Provenzano

    You’ve really gone off the deep end, Mike.

  • There’s the Door

    A profound waste of column space.

  • http://river panos

    dude…this is insulting

  • Going Forward

    The Axsian speciality: mentally flogging the dummy.

  • manash

    ????? ??????? ??? ?????? ?? ?????????