Poll: The Biggest Loss of the Offseason

Prado and some Gatorade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Prado and some Gatorade. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Earlier today we discussed the Yankees’ most important pickup of the offseason. Now it’s time to look at the other end of the spectrum and discuss their biggest loss of the winter. “Loss” is kind of a weird term here because sometimes teams willingly let a player get away, either by trading them or by simply declining to pursue them as a free agent. Other times it’s a true loss. They wanted him to keep him but couldn’t.

As with offseason additions, some offseason losses are bigger than others. Shawn Kelley (traded to the Padres) and Ichiro Suzuki (left as a free agent) saw a lot of playing time with New York the last two years but they aren’t major offseason losses, right? Both have already been replaced by younger if not better players (David Carpenter and Chris Young). Not counting Kelley and Suzuki, the Yankees lost six players this winter who they could end up missing quite a bit, not just in 2015, but beyond as well. Let’s run ’em down.

C Frankie Cervelli

Cervelli’s time in pinstripes was quite a ride. He developed a lot of die-hard defenders who believe he could be a starting catcher for like half the teams in the league, but, in reality, we never saw anything more than flashes of his ability between injuries. Cervelli, who turns 29 next week, has two years of team control remaining and was traded to the Pirates straight up for southpaw Justin Wilson this winter. John Ryan Murphy figures to step in to replace Cervelli as Brian McCann‘s backup catcher this year.

RHP Shane Greene

Greene, 26, was a very nice surprise for the Yankees last year. He came up from the farm system as a drafted and developed player, and gave the team 78.2 innings of 3.78 ERA (3.73 FIP) ball. Greene’s stuff is very lively and it appears he overcame his career-long control problems with some mechanical tweaks in 2013. Without those tweaks, he’s probably not a big league starter. At least not one who impresses everyone as much as he did last year. Greene came up for good last July and has all six years of team control remaining. He was traded for Didi Gregorius over the winter.

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Kuroda's back with the Carp. (Getty)
Kuroda’s back with the Carp. (Getty)

I’m guessing that if the 40-year-old Kuroda was willing to pitch for the Yankees another year, the team would have brought him back with open arms. Hiroki’s game slipped a bit last year (3.70 ERA and 3.60 FIP) but he’s an innings eater and the kind of reliable arm the Yankees lack right now. Of course, he opted to return to the Hiroshima Carp for the final season of his career — and took a massive pay cut to make it happen — so the Yankees didn’t even have a chance to bring him back. The rotation sure would look much more sturdier with Kuroda, wouldn’t it?

RHP David Phelps

The Yankees and Marlins reversed roles this winter. Usually the Marlins are the team trading away a player just as he starts to get expensive through arbitration. Instead, the Yankees traded Phelps to the Marlins just as he hits his arbitration years. Phelps, 28, spent three years as a nice swingman with New York (4.21 ERA and 4.20 FIP) and, frankly, the team could still use him for rotation depth. Instead, they used him to get Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones. Phelps is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2017.

UTIL Martin Prado

Prado was the other piece — the main piece, really — that went to Miami in the Eovaldi trade. Before the trade, the 31-year-old Prado was slated to serve as the team’s starting second baseman and was basically their best right-handed hitter. He had a 146 wRC+ in 37 games with the Yankees last year thanks to real nice four-week stretch before going down with an emergency appendectomy, though over the last two years he had a 103 wRC+. That’s the real Prado, not the guy we briefly saw in pinstripes last year. Either way, the Yankees could use his right-handed bat and versatility, as could just about every team. Prado has two years and $22M left on his contract.

RHP David Robertson

At some point early in the offseason the Yankees decided to let Robertson walk as a free agent and replace him with the cheaper and comparable Andrew Miller while also gaining a supplemental first round draft pick in the process. It’s a sound baseball move, albeit one that seems to be unpopular because the team let a homegrown Yankee walk and replaced him with an ex-Red Sox crony. Robertson, 29, has been an elite reliever for four years running even though his FIP has gradually climbed from 1.84 in 2011 to 2.49 in 2012 to 2.61 in 2013 to 2.68 in 2014. Robertson took a four-year, $46M deal from the White Sox, and really, is it hard to envision a scenario in which the Yankees wish they could trade Miller and that draft pick for Robertson at some point in the next four years?

* * *

As a reminder, this poll is trying to balance the loss of each player in the short and long-term. Kuroda would only be a one-year addition but he would be a really important one-year piece. Other veterans like Robertson and Prado are more likely to decline going forward rather than improve or even just maintain their current level of performance. Greene and Phelps are still young enough that their best years may be ahead of them, however. Time to poll.

Who was NYY's biggest loss of the offseason?

Remembering D-Rob’s 2011

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

This offseason, David Robertson agreed to a deal that brings him to the south side of Chicago — he will wear different pinstripes starting next season. I’m still not too familiar with the concept of other teams signing away the Yankees’ homegrown players (even after the Robinson Cano fiasco last winter) so it isn’t easy envisioning Robertson in a different uniform even though the White Sox also feature a pinstriped design. Well, we may never see D-Rob pitch in the Yankee pinstripes anymore, but we do have memories of his dominance in the recent past.

If you’ve been following the Yankees since prior to the 2008 season, you may remember when he first came up — I remember seeing Robertson as a young reliever with great MiLB numbers but his velocity back then wasn’t too impressive (averaged 90.8 mph in 2008) and also gave up his share of walks (4.45 BB/9). In 2009, however, while he allowed walks more frequently (4.74 BB/9), his average velocity saw a bump to 91.8 mph and he struck out more hitters (12.98 K/9). He followed it up with a decent 2010 (3.58 FIP in 61.1 IP) and then … 2011 happened.

First off, this may not seem believable now, but Robertson started the season as the third setup option behind Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain. Soriano, who had signed a lucrative deal just to set up Mariano Rivera (and to possibly be his replacement after retirement), missed a good chunk of the season with an injury and Joba hurt his elbow in June, requiring Tommy John surgery. Fortunately for the Bombers, at the time of Joba’s injury, Robertson was in a middle of a phenomenal season: 1.16 ERA in 23.1 IP with 38 K’s — that ERA is impressive considering he also had allowed 18 walks for a 6.94 BB/9.

From then on, after taking over as the eighth-inning guy, Robertson just took off: 1.04 ERA in 43.1 IP with 62 K’s and 17 walks. That’s 12.88 K/9 and a much-improved 3.53 BB/9 during that time span. He would continue to lower his walk rate in the next seasons (2.82, 2.44 and 3.22 after 2011)

A lot of you may remember that it seemed like every time D-Rob was out there, he allowed one or two baserunners to reach yet escaped unscathed in the end. At times, he got into dicier situations yet protected the Yankees’ lead with his uncanny ability to strike hitters out. It was also in 2011 that Robertson got his nickname “Houdini” for his magic-like ability to get out of jams. According to ESPN New York’s article from May 2011, Joba coined the nickname for D-Rob after the righty got out of a one-out jam with the runners on the corners against the Mets. (Robertson struck out Carlos Beltran and got Jason Bay to pop out).

Digging more into the stats, in FanGraphs classified “high leverage situations,” Robertson allowed only 7 hits versus 78 batters faced and only 2 extra base hits (no homers) in 2011 — good for .106/.244/.152 slash line. He also struck out nearly half of them with 35 punchouts for a 44.9% rate. Anything else? In “high leverage situations,” the reliever only allowed 6.5% line drives in batted balls as opposed to 21.6% overall. Also, not to mention 89.8% runners left on base rate, quite high considering the league average rate is around 70-72%. Well, quite simply, Robertson was the guy you wanted in late in the games to protect the lead for Rivera to save it, and that’s what Joe Girardi and the Yanks exactly did.

If I had to choose one “Houdini act” from 2011 that linger in memories, I would point to the eighth inning of the September 13 match versus the Seattle Mariners. Well, just so you know that it’s from the 2011 season, I’d like to inform you that A.J. Burnett started the game for Yanks and on the other side, it was Charlie Furbush.

Bottom of the 8th, with the Yankees leading 3-2, New York had 72% chance of winning the game. The 2011 Mariners were not exactly an offensive powerhouse, but Robertson came into the game slated to face the 3-4-5 hitters (Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Justin Smoak). D-Rob allowed a base hit to Ackley but struck out Carp for one out. But after a 7-pitch battle, the righty walked Smoak. With runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, the Yankees’ odds of winning dropped to 62%. Next up … Miguel Olivo. Robertson went on to strike out the catcher after going to a full-count but Ackley and Smoak also stole the 2nd and 3rd base. New York then intentionally walked Adam Kennedy — I repeat, Adam Kennedy, who, at the time, was hitting for a .628 OPS. After that, the chances of a Yankee win was at 65%.

That brought up a pinch-hitter, Trayvon Robinson. Fortunately for the Yankees, Robinson was very prone to strikeouts. He was one of those AAAA-type guys that had good speed and athleticism (and once showed promise with the bat) but never panned out in the Major Leagues. With the Mariners that year, Robinson struck out 39.4% of the time in 155 PA, which is not good — but good for D-Rob. The righty struck out Robinson in 5 pitches and got out of the jam. The odds of the Yankee win rose from 65% to 85%. Here’s the video:

Needless to say, Mo came into the bottom of the ninth to save it for the Yankees and a A.J. Burnett win. (It was Rivera’s 600th career save, by the way.) D-Rob’s line from the eighth inning is just … very D-Rob: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB and 3 K with 30 pitches thrown (15 for strikes).

For me, having D-Rob in the game didn’t mean that everyone was an automatic out — instead, him entering the game was pretty much an automatic hold. He put the game into a more interesting yet nerve-wrecking situations by getting into jams, but he somehow managed to get out of them. Perhaps that’s why I remember his 2011 so fondly — he wasn’t perfect but damn, it was fun to be on the edge every time he pitched.

Free Agent Notes: Johan, Robertson, Olivera

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Got some miscellaneous free agent notes to pass along. One involves a former Yankees player who has signed elsewhere and two involve players who have yet to sign.

Johan Santana dealing with shoulder discomfort

Two weeks ago we learned two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana was on the comeback trail after missing all of 2013 and 2014 with shoulder and Achilles injuries, and that the Yankees were going to “keep an eye on him” during his stint in winter ball. Santana retired all six men he faced in his first outing and reportedly hit 90 on the radar gun.

Last week, however, Santana missed his scheduled start due to discomfort in his twice surgically repaired shoulder. Jon Heyman says no structural damage was found in Johan’s shoulder, and, although he threw a bullpen session last Friday, he will not make another start according to Jon Morosi. “He will be ready for Spring Training,” said his agent. There’s nothing to lose by giving Santana a minor league contract and seeing what happens in Spring Training, but this is a harsh little reminder that he’s far from a guarantee to contribute in any way going forward.

White Sox did not place high bid for Robertson

Weird. (Chicago Tribune)
Weird. (Chicago Tribune)

Earlier this offseason the Yankees lost closer David Robertson — well, they didn’t lose him, really, they let him go after signing Andrew Miller — to the White Sox, who gave him a four-year contract worth $46M. Last week though, ChiSox GM Rick Hahn confirmed to Dan Hayes they did not make Robertson the highest offer and he turned down more money elsewhere to go to Chicago’s south side.

There’s no word on who did place the high bid, but my guess is either the Astros or Blue Jays, most likely the former. More than a few players have turned down Houston this offseason and taken less money elsewhere, including Miller, Ryan Vogelsong, and possibly Chase Headley. The Blue Jays reportedly wanted Robertson as well, though it’s unclear if they ever seriously pursued him. Has to be the Astros, right? Turns out that treating players like numbers and not people hurts your image and doesn’t make you a desirable destination for free agents. Who’d a thunk it?

Yankees continue to show strong interest in Hector Olivera

In the Dominican Republic last week, free agent Cuban third baseman Hector Olivera held an open showcase event and more than 200 scouts were in attendance, according to Jesse Sanchez. The Yankees, along with the Giants, Padres, Rangers, and Braves, are among the teams showing “strong interest” in Olivera at this point. He is still waiting to be declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control so he can sign.

Olivera is not some kind of up-and-coming prospect — he turns 30 in April and is MLB ready. The Yankees don’t really have a spot for another third baseman on the roster, not unless they release A-Rod anyway, and I doubt Olivera is looking to sign with a team to be a bench player. A few weeks ago Ben Badler called Olivera a better player than outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who signed a six-year, $68.5M deal with the Diamondbacks this winter. New York’s interest seems to be due diligence more than anything.

Girardi Talks: Robertson, Bullpen, A-Rod, Rotation, Didi, Offseason, More

San Diego natives Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh stopped by the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. (Photo via Ian Clarkin)
San Diego natives Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh stopped by the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. (Photo via @iClarkin)

Yesterday afternoon Joe Girardi held his annual “state of the Yankees” press conference at the Winter Meetings. It was a fairly standard Yankees press conference, meaning lots of words were said but there wasn’t a whole lot of substance behind them. The organization has mastered the art of saying a lot and nothing at all at the same time, if you know what I mean. Here’s a recap of the important stuff from Girardi’s press conference with some thoughts as well.

David Robertson and the Bullpen

  • On losing Robertson: “Obviously we’re going to miss David … I’m happy for him because I feel like relievers usually get one shot at the long-term contract, and he got that shot and he took full advantage of it. And we’re going to miss him. He was a great young man to manage and had a lot of confidence in him. I wish him the best of luck, except against us.”
  • On the bullpen with Robertson: “Well, we feel that our bullpen is going to be very strong again. With the additions of (Andrew) Miller and (Justin) Wilson and the development of (Adam) Warren and (Shawn) Kelley, we feel like we have a number of great arms … I feel like we’ll have a very good bullpen.”
  • On naming a new closer: “We’ll talk about it as Spring Training goes on to see what is the best situation. I think you have to figure out who is in your bullpen. And the one thing is that we feel that — you look at four of the guys down there, (Dellin) Betances, Miller, Warren, Shawn Kelley, they all have significant amount of time in the back end and have been set up — so you could do probably a lot of different things. It could be dependent on how many days in a row a guy has worked. But like I said, we don’t need to figure that out (now). But I like the arms that we have down there.”
  • On bullpen roles in general: “I think it’s important they have an idea how they’re going to be used, but sometimes it takes time to develop that. When we started out this season Betances was pitching the fifth and sixth inning. In the end he was pitching sometimes the sixth, seventh inning. So that takes time to get ironed out.”

The Yankees have a great opportunity to use a co-closer system, with Betances and Miller sharing eighth and ninth inning duty based on matchups. The Braves did this with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez a few years ago — Soriano (27 saves) faced the tough righties whenever they were due up and Gonzalez (ten saves) faced the tough lefties whenever they were due up. The Yankees could do similar but I think there’s no chance they will. Girardi likes having set roles — seventh inning guy, eighth inning guy, closer, etc. — and so do the players. Someone will replace Robertson as the closer and everyone will fall into place behind him. I just have no idea who the new closer will be.

All A-Rod, All The Time

  • On communication with Alex Rodriguez: “We text, we email, we talk on the phone. We do different things, see videos. It’s been good. I know he’s working extremely hard and that’s going to be a hot button in Spring Training. And we’ve just got to go through Spring Training and see where he’s at. He hasn’t played a lot in two years … We have to see where he’s at.”
  • On first base: “Well, I talked to him about first base and I said ‘We’ll talk about it in Spring Training’ because let’s see the makeup of our club. If we have another first baseman, if I want to give (Mark Teixeira) a day off, then we can put the other one in there. If we don’t, we could possibly move you over there. I’ll see if he’s comfortable and go from there.”
  • On distractions: “You know, I think our guys will handle it well. I’m not so sure over the last three years, when he hasn’t garnered a lot of attention when he’s been in the clubhouse — think about when he came back to Chicago, in San Diego, when he came back — so it’s something we have to pay attention to, but I think our guys are up for it and have the experience and know how to handle it and we’ll handle it.”

Girardi also mentioned he saw some video of A-Rod hitting and working out and other stuff and said he looked good. I fully expect Spring Training to be a total circus because of Alex and I think he will spend some time at first base, at least in camp. It’s really hard to expect him to be productive though. How you do you think Chipper Jones would perform in 2015 if he returned to the game after a two-year retirement? That’s basically what A-Rod will be doing, but with two surgically repaired hips.

The Rotation

  • On depth: “There’s some concerns, I think just because of guys coming off injuries. We feel good about them. We feel good about them coming back … But as we’ve seen, you need more than five starters, usually. You have to have some players that have the ability to do both. So we’re going to have to see what our rotation is, where everyone is at.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka: “We’re counting on him to make his 32 starts. That’s something we’ll have to look at as the season progresses. We have a little bit more experience with him being on a five-man rotation now than we had before. He seemed to do pretty well. He did get hurt. But a lot of times when you talk about guys that have that situation it’s not necessarily one incident — it’s over time. But he came back well. His velocity was there, his split was there. So it’s just something I think you have to pay attention to.”
  • On other injury concerns: “In the back of your mind there’s some question marks. (Ivan) Nova will not be ready for Opening Day. We’ll have to wait a little bit, for sure. He’s had a great rehab … (CC Sabathia‘s) rehab has went well …. Michael Pineda has not thrown 200 innings in a while.”

I’m sure the Yankees are hoping Tanaka will make 32 starts next year but are planning for a scenario in which he makes, well, none. Nova not being ready in time for Opening Day is no surprise — he had surgery in late-April 2014 and at the very earliest would be ready in late-April 2015, but the more likely scenario is May or June. Who in the world knows what Sabathia can do. Not really much more to add here. The Yankees need some rotation depth.

The New Shortstop

  • On Didi Gregorius in general: “I think he’s a good young player that has a chance to blossom in New York. A very good defender. Had success with the bat last year with right-handers and is still young and has the ability to grow into a very good player.”
  • On Gregorius having to replace Derek Jeter: “I think the most important thing for Didi — and I’ll stress it — and I’ll have all the coaches stress it and the people around him, you just need to be yourself. You don’t need to try to be Derek. I think Robertson did a really good job of filling in for a superstar, a legend, a Yankee legend and was just himself. And we need to pay attention to that and make sure that Didi, hey, go out and play, just do what you do.”
  • On Jeter being gone: “I think the reality for me started to hit a little bit the last games in Boston. That that was going to be kind of it … We’re starting anew now. It’s kind of a new era for the Yankees without Derek at shortstop. He’s been there a very, very long time and played at a very high level. But I’ll say it again, Didi, just be yourself.”

Gregorius replacing Jeter is going to be a thing all season, isn’t it? May the baseball gods help the poor kid if he gets off to a slow start in April. Every slump at the plate and error in the field will be scrutinized. That’s just how it will be. I’ve already seen articles saying Gregorius has what it takes to succeed in New York (link) and articles saying he won’t be able to handle the bright lights (link), so no one has any idea what the hell they’re talking about. We just have to wait and see.

Girardi’s right when he says Gregorius just has to be himself, and at the same time the Yankees can’t baby him either. Treat him like any other 24-year-old you’re trying to develop into your shortstop of the future. Play him everyday — sitting him against a tough lefty like Chris Sale or David Price is fine, but a straight platoon with Brendan Ryan would be so, so dumb — and give the kid an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s curious to see how the team balances Gregorius’ development with winning because, frankly, they’ve sucked at developing players lately.

The Offseason

  • On the team’s biggest needs: “You know, when I look at our club, I think you have to think about the depth of the rotation … You need depth in your rotation. You have to. I don’t know how many starters we used last year, but I know we lost four. So we used a lot and that’s something that’s a concern.”
  • On Hiroki Kuroda: “We’re not sure what he’s going to do. That’s a decision he has to make and it’s about the time a player either has in his heart, I want to come back, or It’s time for me to retire. So it’s a decision that he has to make.”
  • On Francisco Cervelli: “We’re going to miss him. He was a good player for us …. He’s a player that was loved in the clubhouse. We loved his energy and the way he played the game. The way he went about his business. I’m happy that he gets an opportunity to play every day. I’ve said all along, I believe he’s an everyday catcher, and he’ll help someone.”

Getting Kuroda back would add some stability to the rotation but the Yankees can’t wait around forever for him to make his decision either. The pitching dominoes are starting to fall and the club has to act soon to get the help they need. If Kuroda decides to play later, great. They can figure it out then. The Yankees don’t want to be left standing at the game of pitching musical chairs because they spent weeks on end waiting for Kuroda.

Miscellany

  • On losing two homegrown stars in two offseasons: “It’s the nature of the revenue sharing and what TV contracts have allowed other clubs to do. I think the game has changed (from what) it was 20 years ago.”
  • On incorporating young players: “We need our system to be productive and for our young players to come up and help us out because, as I’ve said, the game has changed. And more clubs are able to bid on players than probably ever before. So the price goes up and sometimes you lose those players. I feel pretty good about our young kids that are coming. And it’s not just (Rob) Refsnyder or (Jose) Pirela, there’s more that you could talk about and that excites me.”
  • On the coaching staff: “We’ve had some interviews and things have kind of got interrupted with the GM Meetings and organizational meetings and changes in our organization and then coming down here … We’ll probably pick up again when this is all said and done, and we’ll iron out our coaching staff.”
  • On Martin Prado: “I don’t think you have an ideal (position). Would you like to leave him at one spot?  Yeah. But his versatility allows us to rest people at times. We might ask him to do that depending on the makeup of our club.”

Imagine if the Yankees don’t re-sign Chase Headley and go into next season with a double play combination of Gregorius and either Pirela or Refsnyder. How much patience will they have for those growing pains on the middle infield? I’m guessing not much but more than most fans. And, as I’ve said before, I think I’m more curious to see how long the team can go without a hitting coach and first base coach than I am to see who they actually hire. Today’s the two month anniversary of them firing Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher, you know.

2014 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

2014 Winter Meetings-002The first day of the 2014 Winter Meetings came and went with some rumors but no real action, at least for the Yankees. They did lose closer David Robertson to the White Sox, but I got the sense he was a goner as soon as they added Andrew Miller last week. New York’s top priority remains rotation help, and they need multiple starters to protect against all the injury concerns currently in the rotation.

On Monday we learned the Yankees may or may not be in on Jon Lester, are still after Chase Headley, and have spoken to the Braves (Craig Kimbrel), Marlins (Steve Cishek), and Royals (Greg Holland and Wade Davis) about trading for bullpen help. That’s about it. The Yankees tend to keep things very close to the vest. We’ll again keep track of all the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All timestamps are ET.

  • 9:53pm: Just in case you were holding out any hope for Jon Lester, he is currently deciding between the Red Sox and Cubs after telling the Giants they are out of the running. I suppose San Francisco could turn around and use that money for Chase Headley now. (Joel Sherman & Alex Pavlovic)
  • 6:24pm: Are the Yankees in on Max Scherzer and/or Jon Lester? “It’s not in my best interests to say,” said Brian Cashman. Boring. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • 6:21pm: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees never had interest in signing both David Robertson and Miller. Once they signed Miller, they said they were still on Robertson only drive up the price for others. Cashman also said he spoke to the Athletics about Jeff Samardzija, but there was no match. [Marly Rivera & Dan Barbarisi]
  • 3:25pm: The Yankees continue to insist they will not get involved in the Max Scherzer bidding. Things can always change later in the offseason, but that’s the plan right now. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 2:03pm: Team officials still don’t know if Hiroki Kuroda will play next season and it’s complicating their search for pitching. Kuroda’s three contracts with the Yankees were signed on January 26th, November 20th, and December 7th, in case you’re wondering. At some point they have to start moving forward without him. [Bob Klapisch]
  • 1:33pm: The Pirates have agreed to re-sign Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39M deal. The Yankees were never connected to Liriano this offseason but he is a pitching option now off the market. Also, it Liriano gets three years and $39M, you have to figure Brandon McCarthy will get less than that. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:05am: The four-year, $65M offer for Chase Headley is a mystery — no one knows where it came from. (I think his agent floated it as a way to drive up the price.) The Yankees were originally thinking about a three-year deal at $39M but would go to four years as long as the annual salary came down. [Jon Heyman]
  • 9:30am: Chase Headley will made a decision and pick a team before the end of the Winter Meetings. The Yankees and Giants are among the three or four teams bidding for him. I’m guessing Headley will wait until after Lester signs just to see exactly how much San Francisco money has to play with. [Joel Sherman]
  • Jason Grilli‘s agent confirmed he spoke to Brian Cashman earlier this offseason but declined to say whether the two would talk again during the Winter Meetings. The Yankees could definitely use another late-inning reliever now that Robertson’s gone. [Brendan Kuty]

Thoughts following David Robertson’s departure

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, word came down that David Robertson had agreed to a four-year contract worth $46M with the White Sox. The Yankees preemptively replaced their closer by signing Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36M contract last week. I have thoughts.

1. It was really easy to say goodbye to Robinson Cano last offseason because Seattle’s contract offer was ridiculous. The Mariners blew everyone right out of the water. That isn’t the case with Robertson. Four years and $46M is perfectly reasonable for a pitcher of his caliber. The difference between Robertson’s contract and Miller’s contract is basically what the Yankees are paying Brendan Ryan on an annual basis. It’s an amount of money that I don’t think should ever stand between the Yankees and keeping a homegrown player who ranks among the best players at his position. Now the Miller signing goes from adding an elite reliever to the bullpen to replacing one and maintaining the status quo. Brian Cashman said Robertson “checks every box” when looking for a closer, but I guess that wasn’t enough to keep him. It’s one thing to let a homegrown star like Cano leave because a desperate team came out of nowhere with an insane offer. It’s another when you let one go because you wouldn’t compete against a reasonable contract.

2. Devil’s advocate: Robertson had his worst season since 2010 in 2014 and his FIP (chart) has been gradually trending in the wrong direction since 2011. His velocity had fallen off in the second half (chart) in each of the last three years as well, perhaps indicating he was getting worn down. A total of 86 relievers in history had at least five 60+ inning seasons before their age 30 season — Robertson’s one of them — but only 26 have eight such seasons before their age 33 season. Will Robertson be one of those guys? The Yankees very likely got the best years of Robertson’s career, replaced him with a comparable reliever making $2.5M less per season, and gained a draft pick in the process. It’s a smart move, though it doesn’t make the team any better. Like I said, it only maintains the status quo. How they use the savings and draft pick — will the compensation pick for Robertson make them more willing to give up their first rounder for a qualified free agent? — is pretty important in this equation. Whether you agree or disagree with them, there were several valid reasons to let Robertson go.

3. The Yankees are going to end up having four different primary closers in four years — Rafael Soriano in 2012, Mariano Rivera in 2013, Robertson in 2014, and whoever in 2015 — after having one from 1997-2011. I think (hope) they’ll sign a low cost veteran free agent to close, someone like Soriano or Jason Grilli who can start the ninth inning fresh and live in that confined role, so Joe Girardi can use Miller and Dellin Betances liberally in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. The alternative would be letting Miller close since he’s the high-priced free agent pickup, or letting Betances close so he can fulfill his eerie Mariano Rivera-esque career path destiny, going from failed starter prospect at 25 to dominant multi-inning setup man at 26 to replacing the team’s departed free agent closer at 27. I would prefer to see them sign Soriano or Grilli or whoever — the Yankees will probably trade for Jonathan Papelbon after replacing Cano and Robertson with Jacoby Ellsbury and Miller just to make sure they pour every last grain of salt in the wound — to close as long as they limit it to a one-year contract. No need to go multiple years with someone like this. You want to be able to easily cut bait next summer if necessary.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. As of right now the bullpen is Miller, Betances, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, and Justin Wilson, plus one open spot that will depend on whether David Phelps is needed in the rotation. The Yankees have a slew of internal candidates for that last spot if Phelps has to start — Jacob Lindgren, Manny Banuelos, Jose DePaula, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, perhaps an upcoming Rule 5 Draft pick, etc. — but those young guys will inevitably get their shot at some point next season anyway. There’s definitely room to add another reliever there, maybe even two if the Yankees are willing to option Wilson to Triple-A or slip Rogers through waivers — he’s out of minor league options — to send him down to the minors. The bullpen is a low level priority right now but the Yankees are going to wind up playing a ton of close games next season again. It’s inevitable. Adding more depth there wouldn’t be a bad idea.

5. The compensation draft pick for losing Robertson is neat — that pick is currently 30th overall but it’ll change depending where the remaining unsigned qualified free agents land — but it is only a small consolation prize. Talent tends to come off the board very linearly in the draft these days thanks to the spending limits. The best players go at the top of the draft and everyone else falls in line behind them. The days of hoping a top draft prospect falls due to contract demands are pretty much over. Assuming the Yankees don’t go bonkers and sign a bunch of qualified free agents, having the extra pick will be fun as someone who enjoys the draft and writes far too many words about it every year. After the club forfeited all those picks last winter and using their remaining selections on seemingly nothing but college relievers, I’m looking forward to the excitement of the Yankees having two first round picks next June.

Nightengale: White Sox agree to sign David Robertson to four-year, $46M deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The White Sox have agreed to sign David Robertson to a four-year contract, reports Bob Nightengale. Jon Heyman says the deal is worth $46M. The Yankees will receive a supplemental first round pick as compensation for losing their closer. Earlier on Monday we heard the Yankees were willing to go to four years — in exchange for a lower average annual value — to keep Robertson but Jack Curry says they never even made a formal offer.

Even with Robertson leaving, the Yankees still have a devastating late-inning combo in Dellin Betances the recently signed Andrew Miller. The club could look to sign a low cost closer, someone like Jason Grilli or Rafael Soriano, which would allow Joe Girardi to use Betances and Miller liberally in the middle innings. Heck, even Shawn Kelley could be a viable closer candidate in this scenario. Either way, the Yankees are going to have to win a lot of close games to contend in 2015 and the bullpen will be important.

Letting Robertson go at that price — and replacing him with Miller, which is a lateral move at best — is really disappointing. Four years and $46M) seems very fair for a reliever like Robertson, who has been elite for four years now and has shown he can handle pitching the late innings in New York. There are valid reasons to let him go — fair among of mileage on his arm, 2014 was his worst season since 2010, etc. — but man, it still sucks to see a homegrown Yankee like this.