David Robertson needs to close for the 2014 Yankees

Sherman: Yankees have "little interest" in Brian Roberts
Levine: Yankees, Cubs talked about Darwin Barney
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In replacing the 145 bullpen innings they’ve lost, the Yankees certainly need outside reinforcements. They might have a few internal players to fill some of those innings, but we can’t expect them to find all 145 within the organization. A couple of acquisitions seem probable.

One name linked to the Yankees is Joaquin Benoit, formerly of the Tigers. He seems pretty solidly in the former column, since Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated that with the acquisition of Joba Chamberlain, he’s finished with his bullpen. Benoit, 36, has a number of suitors, the Yankees among them. The Padres and Indians reportedly have offers of two years and $14 million on the table, which seems reasonable. So where are the Yankees on this?

In 2013 Benoit, for the first time in his career, became a regular closer. He’d finished double-digit games in each of the previous three seasons, picking up a few saves in each, but he was never the full-time closer. Detroit, absent a “proven closer” in 2013, slid Benoit into the role with much success. The money is with closers, even older ones, as Joe Nathan proved with those very Tigers. It could be that Benoit seeks a full-time closer role, which would seemingly give the closer-absent Indians an advantage.

(The Padres have a “proven closer” of their own in Huston Street, which leaves their pursuit curious. In fact, reports have indicated that they are “in the lead,” whatever that means, so perhaps Benoit doesn’t value a closer role beyond all else.)

The Yankees could add a closer for the 2014 season, leaving David Robertson in the setup role he has so tremendously played for the past three or four seasons. That might be his ideal role, given his strikeout stuff and penchant for wiggling out of jams. But that doesn’t mean it’s the role he’ll play in the future. Ballplayers want to maximize their earnings during their relatively short window. Again, the money is there for closers.

If the Yankees don’t move Robertson into the closer’s role, they’ll probably lose him after next season to a team that will give him that opportunity. Sure, the Yankees could keep him in a setup role for 2014, and then re-sign him to be the closer in 2015 and beyond. That hardly makes any sense. Why give the guy closer money, and the closer role, when he hasn’t closed games for more than a couple weeks in his career? The prudent move, it seems, is to move Robertson into the closer role and sign a capable setup man. That way you can see what Robertson is made of, while giving him a safety net.

In that way, Benoit makes perfect sense. He’s a setup man who has had success as a closer, so if Robertson falters he could become the man. It will cost the Yankees — two years and $14 is a lot for a 36-year-old, and with three teams in the running the bidding could get higher — but he seems the perfect fit. Given the rest of the free agent market, and the unpredictable trade market, Benoit might be the Yankees best chance to help fill some of those 145 departed innings.

For the same reason, trading for a proven closer makes little sense for the Yankees. Yesterday, for instance, Buster Olney reported that the Phillies are “EXTREMELY motivated to move [Jonathan] Papelbon.” His time with the Red Sox sours him on Yankees fans, but looking beyond that he could be a good fit. You know he wants a trade to the Yankees, making him the heir to Mariano Rivera. He’d be more motivated than ever, going up against his former team six times a year.

It’s not even the money remaining on Papelbon’s deal, three years and $39 million if his 2016 option vests, that makes this a poor move. It’s the idea that with a proven closer in their ranks, Robertson could bolt for more money and a more prominent role on another team. Hell, he could bolt for the Red Sox, which is the worst possible idea. Imagine the Red Sox having an in-his-prime Robertson closing games while the Yankees have an over-the-hill (but still potentially effective) Papelbon closing theirs.

By itself, acquiring Papelbon wouldn’t be a bad idea. The Yankees obviously have the money, and Papelbon has made some adjustments to compensate for his diminishing stuff as he ages. The X factor is how this affects Robertson. If the Yankees bring in a proven closer, Robertson stands a better chance of leaving to find a closer role, and closer money, elsewhere. Why not just give Robertson the closer job in 2014 to see what he’s made of? Then they can spend that Papelbon money on Robertson if they’re satisfied.

Given the lack of relievers on the market, it might be easier to add a closer and keep Robertson in the setup role. But the easy move is rarely the correct move. The Yankees have to think beyond 2014, when they’ll need quality late-inning relievers like Robertson. To deny him the closer role in 2014 could be to lose him for 2015 and beyond. Given the mass exodus of relievers this off-season, that’s a scenario the Yankees can ill afford.

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Sherman: Yankees have "little interest" in Brian Roberts
Levine: Yankees, Cubs talked about Darwin Barney
  • Dr TJ Eckleberg

    Fuck Papelbon.

    • Aims

      If we acquire papelbon, I will be so upset as a Yankee fan. I watched Ellsbury for years and liked his play, but I could never stand Papelbon for a second, he acted like an arrogant prick. To have Rivera leave and be replaced by Papelbon would break my heart in the worst way, I’m usually a logical guy but please Cash, don’t make this happen.

      • lee

        totally agree. but then maybe they sign Papelbon and it pisses off Mo so bad that he un-retires! THAT i could live with! :)

  • CashmanNinja

    I would have loved Joe Nathan, but he was a tad costly. Closers in general are expensive and I just don’t see any available that are worth the money. Papelbon’s numbers weren’t the greatest, but I don’t think he’s completely washed up. With that being said I want NOTHING to do with him. I hate his attitude, I hate his contract, I hate his face. I just do not like the guy and want nothing to do with him. I don’t think putting Robertson in the role is the worst thing in the world. In fact, closers come and go. The thing that made Mariano so special was how great he was in the post season and the fact that he was great for SO long. It’s hard to find someone who can be dominant for such a long time, but other teams seem to be able to find guys who can fill the void for a little while. Obviously none are quite at Mariano’s level, but they’re better than say…what Joba did for us last year (even with him in a non-closer role). The point I’m trying to make is that the next batch of closers has to come from somewhere and it’s usually good setup guys who take the mantle and become the next great closers. I have faith in Robertson to fill the void. And if he can’t do it then someone else can come up and get the job done without us needing to pay $10+ mil. I sure do miss Mariano though and I definitely won’t have the usual sense that the game is over even before the last out is made.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I like the idea of someone who could close, if needed, but would be around more to solidify the late innings. I have no problem with giving Shawn Kelley the keys to the 8th inning, but there needs to be some veteran backup there.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Oh, and fuck Papelbon. I have no problem with former Sox. I have a problem with his face.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      That pouty bitch mouth…I want to punch it so fucking hard. With an iron.

      That said, I maintain that I would take Papshmeer if they throw Lee in.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        It’s the face he makes when he looks at home plate. I can’t take it. I couldn’t deal with it every day. He’d need a new face.

  • http://dsf Derek Jeter

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Jonathan Papelbon!!!

  • Dars

    Buck Papelfon!!

  • nycsportzfan

    Its kinda funny how last yr we did nothing in FA’cy and this yr, we did basically all are heavy lifting within a wk. So take that week outta the picture, and its been alot of days with no news for are beloved bombers.

  • Kiko Jones

    Youkilis and now Papelbum? Oh, hells no!

  • RetroRob

    The Yankees should sign Robertson to an extension before he’s the closer, and then make him the closer.

    I don’t understand the Yankees approach to players like Gardner and D-Rob. They’re asking to pay top dollar to keep them, or risk losing them on the open market with little to no compensation. It’s not as if they’re locked into them either. Both would still be tradeable commodities if signed to reasonable deals prior to free agency. They should be doing the same with Ivan Nova.

    • nsalem

      You can also add Cano to that list. They should have locked him up for 8 years (through age 35) after the 2010 season. At that point he had only made around 15 or 20 million and it probaly could have been done for somewhere between 140 to 160 million. Our organization hasn’t changed with the times and we are now paying the piper. I agree with you 100% on Gardner and D-Rob but now it might be to late. If Nova comes up big in the first half, which means he will have shown consistency as a #3 for a full year I think that would be the time to extend which is 2 1/2 years before FA. They made the same mistakes with Bernie in 98 and Andy in 04.

      • Ed

        The Yankees wanted to do that. Boras was his agent at the time though. His response was basically, “Sure, we’ll sign a new contract, but only if you decline the cheap team options and pay free agent rates.”

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Whatever for Lee, and if they make us take Papelbon, fine. He pitches the 8th. Then hopefully we trade him at the deadline for something useful to a team that needs a closer.

  • yankeedog

    Yankees need 5 more moves:

    Mark Ellis for 2B and Mark Reynolds for 3B
    JP Howell as lefty out of bullpen and Joaquin Benoit as SU
    And 1 starting pitcher out of this group: Jimenez/Garza/Santana

    It is becoming obvious that Tanaka will not happen….

    Alternatives are Brian Roberts for 2B and Eric Chavez for 3B
    Matt Thornton or Scott Downs as LH relievers and Jose Veras as SU

    Kelly Johnson platoons with both Reynolds and Ellis…

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      “It is becoming obvious that Tanaka will not happen….”

      Please explain.

      • CashmanNinja

        I think he’s got it backwards. It seems like it’s more obvious that he WILL be posted. Hell, there was talk that other Japanese league teams were willing to pitch in some money to the Eagles just to get Tanaka out of the league. They didn’t want to face him anymore so they were willing to basically pay to get him away. Hell, that makes me want him even more than I already wanted him (which was a lot). I’ve read a bunch of articles on how Tanaka said that pitching in the U.S was his dream and I’m thinking that his team may not let a few million dollars (ok, a lot of millions of dollars) stand in the way of that. He seems to have his heart set on pitching here and I just hope it’s in Pinstripes. The Yankees are willing to pay the money so if he wants to be a Yankee he could be one.

        • nycsportzfan

          Also, i’ve been very candid in yanks making a run at Matt Thornton. I’m surprised the yanks haven’t inquired in him yet, because they’ve certainly had interest in Thornton in the past, at least a couple times. Thornton as one LHP in pen, and then a spring training battle between Cabral and Huff. That could work.

    • nycsportzfan

      Does anyone know whats going on with David Huff? Is he on board for 2014? If so, i hope hes given a fair shake, as he was really good down the stretch for us.

  • hey now

    Ellsbury scores the go-ahead run late, and Papelbon gets the save against the Red Sox in Fenway.

    Come on now, who wouldn’t want to see that?

    • Ryan D

      Papelboner taking over for Mo’ would be one of the most sacrilegious moves in the history of the organization.

      • Yankee68

        Amen brother!

  • Fin

    Anyone buying into the report that the Yankees have interest in Darwin Barney? I certainly hope not, hes fucking awful. Could have just kept Adams around to suck.

    • Yankee68

      No, they are going to clone Horace Clarke for a replacement!

  • lightSABR

    If they trade for Papelbon, they’d better use him as a setup man. By every measurement, Robertson is a better pitcher.

    Also, when you type “David Robertson is” into Google, the suggested searches aren’t “is a douche,” “is a tool,” “is an idiot,” and “is a jerk.” Papelbon, on the other hand…

    • Uh Dinnings

      A $13M a year for two years, possibly three, setup man? Lay off the drugs.

      • LitFig

        Rafael Soriano says howdy

  • fuster

    no large sums for a closer should be expended while a starter and an infielder are still needed

  • David in Cal

    David Robertson should be the 2014 closer because he earned the job. Period.

    • Uh Dinnings

      Who cares if Paplebon is a jerk? What the FUCK that have to do with his ability to play the game? He was the closer for the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox. He has 286 career saves in eight seasons, just two saves shy of an average of 36 saves a season. He has a 1 ERA and is 8 for 9 in save opportunities in the postseason where he gave up all three runs there in one series.

      “His time with the Red Sox” you say? Hmmmm…guess you weren’t watching the Yankees in 1986 when Roger Clemens was the primary reason why the 90-72 Yankees didn’t win the division with his ALMVP and ALCYA 24-4 performance, yet the Yankees traded for him. Oh yeah, he also tried to take Jeter’s head off when he was a Red Sock.

      Robertson is a fine pitcher but he has only eight career saves in six seasons, three of them this year, so he is a much greater unknown than Paplebon or even Benoit when it comes to closing games. One could argue he had the peace of mind that Mo would be the next pitcher in and Mo could come in for the last out of the eighth – he doesn’t have Mo anymore. Who’s saving his ass if he falters now?

      The danger in making Robertson the closer is if he has a 20 or more pitch save or worse blown save, hello Kelley and Clairborne saving games, too – fuck that. Enter Paplebon as the closer or Joaquin Benoit as a super setup man or dual closer.

  • Gehrig27

    I totally agree with the comments saying that the Yankees need to deepen their bullpen. Right now, they don´t even have a proven closer (I am not saying that D-Robertson should not be given the chance to get the role, by the way) and the rest of the bullpen alternatives being considered looks at least unexperienced (Claiborne, Betances, Cabral, Warren, Phelps, Nuno, etc.) Only Kelley and Huff are a bit more experienced…

    Look at Boston 2013: they needed not one, not two, but three closers to make it: Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara…Injuries DO happen, as the 2013 Yankees clearly proved…So you better make sure you have enough alternatives just in case…

    Among the names considered I would include GRANT BALFOUR…certainly better than Veras, Rodney, or Benoit (the guy imploded mightily in the post-season)

  • toad

    What is this “closer” mystique? Robertson is an excellent relief pitcher who plainly ought to be given the closer job in 2014. Looking elsewhere is just symptomatic of “the grass is greener over there” syndrome.

    It’s not like no setup man has become a successful closer. The last time the Yankees tried it it worked out pretty well, as I recall.

    • Nick Social

      Dumb people fixate on the 3 games Robertson struggled in back in 2012.

    • Rolling Doughnut

      This +1. He had 10.4 SO/9, 6.9 H/9, 4.28 SO/BB last year. The several hiccups notwithstanding. Earns him a shot at closer, I’d say.

      As for Benoit.. Seriously? ARGHHHH