Archive for David Robertson
David Robertson has emerged as both the Yankees’ top setup man and one of the best non-closing relievers in baseball these last three years, and 12 months from now he will become a free agent. That non-closing part figures to change in 2013 with Mariano Rivera headed off to retirement. With the obvious caveat that New York could go off and sign an established closer, Robertson is the obvious candidate to take over the ninth inning.
Matt Swartz’s model projects Robertson to earn a healthy $5.5M next season, which is pretty close to top of the market dollars for a setup reliever. The pay scale for closers is considerably different though. Saves pay a ton even though they’re far from the best way to evaluate performance. Even through free agency, guys with lots of saves tend to get more than a comparable reliever who never held a ninth inning job. It’s not exactly fair or wise, but that’s the reality of baseball’s salary structure.
Despite payroll being slashed in the name of not paying the luxury tax, the Yankees still employ their silly and outdated “no extensions” policy. Even if payroll wasn’t coming down, it’s still a bad idea to have this umbrella policy that prevents the team from signing players at below-market rates early in their career. To their credit, the Yankees broke their policy to sign Robinson Cano way back when and they were willing to do the same to re-sign Russell Martin two years ago, but those are the only exceptions to date. Robertson should be the third.
The idea is simple: sign Robertson to a setup man contract now before he racks up a bunch of saves next summer and earns a closer contract next winter. We’re not talking about saving a little bit of cash here. The difference between a great free agent setup man and even a slightly above-average free agent closer is still a couple million bucks in average annual value. The Yankees want to keep payroll under the luxury tax threshold and signing Robertson now would help accomplish that while keeping an elite arm in the bullpen.
Believe it or not, a decent amount of setup relievers have signed contract extensions one year prior to free agency in recent years. Some pretty great ones as well. Teams are locking their best young players up to multi-year contracts more than ever before and that includes relievers, the most volatile position in the game. With an assist from MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, here are three setup relievers who signed long-term extensions one season prior to free agency in recent years:
|Robertson||Ryan Madson||Sean Marshall||Santiago Casilla|
|Platform Year fWAR||1.6||1.1||2.6||-0.4|
|Previous 3 Years fWAR||5.9||2.1||5.0||0.6|
|Platform Year bWAR||2.4||1.1||1.6||0.5|
|Previous 3 Years bWAR||8.1||2.2||5.8||3.6|
WAR is certainly not the best way to evaluate past performance — or project future performance, for that matter — especially when it comes to short relievers. The leverage component still needs work. WAR works just fine for this exercise though because we’re only trying to get in the contract ballpark, not pin down exact numbers. We just want to be close.
Madson’s contract is not a great comparable because he signed it prior to the 2009 season. It’s a bit outdated. The Marshall and Casilla contracts are a bit more relevant since they were signed prior to 2012 and 2013, respectively. Casilla is a good example of the earning power of saves — he’s been rather average overall but had piled up some saves before signing his contract, including spending a half-season as closer for the Giants immediately prior to signing his extension. Saves pay, man, and that’s what the Yankees should be trying to avoid with Robertson.
Robertson’s performance over the last three years is clearly a notch above the other guys, but his platform year performance (the year immediately prior to signing a multi-year contract) is in line with Madson’s and especially Marshall’s. Three years sure looks like the standard length here, meaning the Yankees would be buying out Robertson’s final year of arbitration-eligibility as well as two years of free agency. Since he’s projected to earn $5.5M in 2014 — a higher average annual value than Madson and Casilla and equal to Marshall’s contract — the team will have to offer their setup man a little bit more. At the very least, Robertson’s agent should ask for a bit more.
Here’s the complicated part: Robertson and his agent aren’t stupid. They know his earning power will skyrocket in the next 12 months if he establishes himself as a legitimate closer, so why would they settle for setup man dollars right now? I suppose Robertson and his family could really value the financial security that comes with signing right now, but even then there would have to be some compromise. The Yankees are planning to move Robertson into a more prominent role and at this point of his career, he’s earned the right to be paid accordingly. If the team doesn’t feel that way, then they could wait and get involved in the bidding way next winter.
Based mostly on the recent contracts but also considering things like performance and inflation, my guesstimate is that three years and $21M might be amenable to both the team and Robertson. That’s an average of $7M annually — they could structure the salaries something like $5M in 2013, $7.5M in 2014, and $8.5M in 2015 — which would be the record for a non-lolownership Rafael Soriano setup man. It would also be mid-range closer dollars, on par with guys like Jonathan Broxton and (the good version of) Brian Fuentes. Robertson would surely get more on the open market with a strong closer season under his belt, but remember, he’d be trading maximum earning potential for security by signing an extension.
Relievers are the riskiest investments in baseball but teams still need them. Robertson is an upper-echelon reliever and the Yankees know pretty much everything there is to know about him. They know his work ethic, his mechanics, his stuff, his medical history, his family, the whole nine. All of that is important when deciding whether to commit to someone long-term. The Yankees might not like the idea of signing Robertson for multiple years, it’s possible they think he’s an injury risk or whatever, but if they do want to keep him around well into the future, then they should look into signing him this winter before he racks up a ton of saves and the price tag goes way up.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the team’s super-setup man and likely heir to Mariano Rivera‘s throne.
Over the last three seasons, the Yankees have been very spoiled in the eighth and ninth innings. Regardless of whether Mariano Rivera or injury fill-in Rafael Soriano was closing out games in the ninth, the one constant since 2011 has been the elite performance of David Robertson in the eighth inning. He has emerged as one of baseball’s very best relievers and has reached the point where dominant performances are expected, not a surprise.
The 2013 season was more of the same from the 28-year-old Robertson. He pitched to a 2.04 ERA and 2.61 FIP in 66.1 innings as the primary bridge to Rivera, only twice going through a rough patch. Robertson allowed five runs in a 5.2-inning, ten-day span in late April and then five runs in a 3.1-inning, eight-day span in early-September. That’s it. Two-thirds of his season runs allowed in 13.7% of his innings. The Yankees actually sat Robertson down for five days after the hiccup in September because of fatigue, which somewhat explains the poor performance.
From May 1st through September 1st, a span of 48 appearances and 46.1 innings, Robertson allowed five runs and 43 base-runners. Opponents hit .182/.257/.252 against him during that time, which is more or less what David Adams hit for the big league team this summer (.193/.252/.286). He was pretty much automatic during those four months — Robertson didn’t blow a single lead and took only one loss, which came when he allowed a run in a tie game. There was every reason to feel confident when the Yankees handed a lead over to him.
Overall, Robertson struck out 77 batters (10.45 K/9 and 29.4 K%) and walked only 18 batters (2.44 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) while posting a career-best 50.9% ground ball rate. The most important thing to me is those walks. Somewhere around the All-Star break last season, Robertson simply stopped walking guys. It’s very cool but also kinda weird. Here, look:
This is a guy who walked 4.72 batters per nine innings (12.2% of batters faced) during the first four seasons of his career. Robertson then went on to post a 4.38 BB/9 and 11.4 BB% in the first half of 2012, but since then? A 2.20 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%. For whatever reason, either improved mechanics or improved confidence or something else entirely (all of the above?), Robertson cut his walk rate in half after the All-Star break last year. He followed up this season by showing it was no fluke. That’s probably the best thing the Yankees could have seen out of their setup man in 2013.
After three straight dominant seasons, Robertson has both raised expectations and put himself in position to be key long-term piece for the Yankees. Unlike much of the veteran dreck on the roster, it’s easy to see him as part of the next Yankees team to make the postseason and contend for a World Series title. Robertson is due to become a free agent next winter and barring a catastrophic injury, he’ll get paid top of the relief market dollars. He’s earned it. New York could bring in a Proven Closer™ to replace Mo this winter — it’s hard not to notice Joe Nathan will become a free agent in about a week — but they have the perfect internal candidate. Robertson has shown everything a team could possibly want to see out of a potential closer and he’s earned the opportunity to inherit the ninth inning in my opinion. Sustaining that improved walk rate this year clinched it.
As we spend far too much time trying to figure out how the Yankees will rebuild themselves into a contender while staying under the $189M luxury tax threshold next season, there has always been one great big unknown throwing a wrench into things: arbitration salaries. These go to players with more than three years but fewer than six years of service time; the guys who have been in the league long enough to earn a decent salary but not long enough to qualify for free agency.
Arbitration salaries are very tough to pin down (or estimate, for that matter) but can be substantial in some cases, especially as the player moves closer to free agency. Thankfully, Matt Swartz developed an insanely accurate model — it’s been within 5% or so overall — for projecting arbitration salaries, and the information has been available at MLBTR these last three years. Projections for the Yankees’ seven arbitration-eligible players were released over the weekend:
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)
Update: Here are the updated projections. Only Robertson’s changed.
Nova ($2.22M raise), Robertson ($2.4M), and Gardner ($1.15M) are all projected to receive healthy raises from last season. The other four guys are projected to receive $640k salary increases or less. Nova is arbitration-eligible for the very first time, meaning he’s coming off what amounts to a league minimum salary in 2013. I have to think that’s a pretty great moment for a young-ish player — that first year of arbitration, when your annual salary goes from mid-six-figures to several million bucks.
Anyway, at the projected salaries, I think both Nix and Stewart are obvious non-tender candidates, meaning the Yankees should cut them loose and allow them to become free agents rather than pay that salary. Nix is a perfectly fine utility infielder who played way too much this past season, when he earned $900k. The projected $1.4M is a real stretch for me. If he’s willing to re-sign with the team for $1M or so, great. If not, move on. There are better ways to spend $1.4M, especially considering the team’s self-imposed budget constraints. Same goes for Stewart. No way should the Yankees pay him a seven-figure salary in 2014. That’s madness.
So, assuming the Yankees non-tender Nix and Stewart but keep everyone else, their arbitration class projects to cost $14.8M next season. They currently have six players under contract with a combined $84.9M “tax hit” for 2014 and that includes Alex Rodriguez, who may or may not be suspended. It doesn’t include Derek Jeter, who figures to pick up his player option. So, between the guys under contract and the arbitration-eligible players, the Yankees have eleven players slated to earn $99.7M in 2014, pending decisions by Jeter and the arbitrator overseeing A-Rod‘s appeal.
That leaves the team with roughly $77.3M to spend on the 29 remaining 40-man roster spots (plus leaving space for midseason additions) when you factor in ~$12M or so for player benefits, which count against the tax. If A-Rod is suspended for the entire season, it’ll be $104.8M for 30 remaining roster spots. That sounds like a lot, but remember, Jeter and the inevitable Robinson Cano contract will soak up about $35M of that leftover money all by themselves. Without A-Rod but with Cano and Jeter, it’s more like $70M for 28 roster spots plus midseason additions. Doable, certainly, but that $300M spending spree might be more myth that reality.
Well, this is awkward. The Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention last night but there are still four days and four games left in the regular season. They’ve broken up with the postseason, but they’re stuck living with each other until the lease runs out, or something. That was a bad analogy.
Anyway, these next four days are meaningless — unless you’re overly concerned about moving up or down one draft slot — but they do have some value to the Yankees. They have a chance to attend to some serious and not-so-serious business. Here are the three most important items on the agenda:
Start serious contract talks with Robinson Cano
Cano’s impending free agency is, by far, the biggest issue facing the Yankees these next few weeks. The five-day exclusive negotiating period expires five days after the end of the World Series, so the team has about a month to hammer out a deal and keep him off the open market. Obviously doing that would be preferable. The last thing the Yankees want is a bidding war.
“If we don’t make it to the playoffs, I want to take my time, go on vacation and relax. Then I want to sit down with my family and decide what we gonna do,” said Cano to Wally Matthews yesterday. “I haven’t decided anything yet, but don’t get me wrong. I love this team, you know? … I understand it’s a business. They have to decide what is the best for them, and I have to decide what is best for me and my family. I’m just waiting for the day.”
The Yankees made Cano a “significant offer” during Spring Training — before he changed agents — and just this morning we heard the team offered seven years and $161M. (Let’s ignore Robbie’s demand of $305M for the moment, that’s just AgentSpeak.) Now that they’ve been eliminated, the team needs to sit down with Cano’s camp and get serious about a new contract. The idea of talks being a “distraction” during the season is a non-issue now — no one would care if he went 0-for-20 in the final four games. It changes nothing other than his stat line*. This is the single most important piece of offseason business. Get it done as soon as possible.
* Just for the record, an 0-for-20 would drop Cano from .315/.384/.519 to .305/.374/.503 on the year. No one would notice the difference.
Shut down David Robertson, David Phelps, and Shawn Kelley (and Boone Logan)
A bunch of the team’s relievers have been banged up of late, and since these last four games are meaningless, the Yankees should just shut them all down and look toward next season. Robertson (shoulder), Phelps (forearm), and Kelley (triceps) have all missed time with arm problems in recent weeks — and not coincidentally, they’ve kinda stunk — so just shut them down and focus on getting them healthy for their offseason workouts and whatnot. All three figure to be not just part of the pitching staff next season and beyond, but rather important pieces of the pitching staff. No need to push it.
As for Logan, he needs offseason surgery to clean a bone spur out of his elbow after missing a few weeks with soreness. He’s available to pitch now but there’s no reason to run him out there. Logan will be a free agent this winter and there’s no real indication the Yankees will try to re-sign him, so this is more of a “thanks for the last four years, we’re not going to risk further injury by running you out there on the verge of free agency” thing rather than a “get healthy, we need you next year” thing. Just do the guy a solid.
Let Mariano Rivera play center field
This has gotta happen. Tonight too, not in Houston. Rivera has been shagging fly balls before batting practice for over two decades now for this very situation. I say regardless of the actual score, let him pitch the eighth inning and then play the ninth in center field in tonight’s series finale against the Rays. The other way around would be ideal since the ninth inning is Mo’s inning, but I’m not sure he could play the field in the eighth and warm up for the ninth. I don’t think warming up in the bullpen before the eighth and “sitting” for an inning would work either.
Following last night’s loss, Joe Girardi said he will continue to play his regulars out of respect for the game, which makes me think he won’t play Rivera in center field tonight since Tampa is still fighting for a playoff spot (and seeding). This weekend against the Astros will be a different matter. There’s literally nothing on the line other than the Yankees’ draft slot — the Astros have already clinched the first overall pick for the third straight years — which means Mo might have to wait for the weekend. That would be really unfortunate. If he does play an inning in center, it should be in front of the hometown crowd. Let’s hope for a huge lead (or a huge deficit, who really cares at this point) in the late innings so Rivera could play some outfield in his final game in the Bronx. It would make this whole mess of a season totally worth it.
Mariano Rivera has been named one of six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, the MLBPA announced. The award is given annually “for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to the community.” Past winners include Chipper Jones, Curtis Granderson, and Jim Thome. The other five finalists are Chase Utley, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Gonzalez, and former Yankees Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher.
In other award nomination news, the Yankees announced that David Robertson has been named the team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee. That award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Derek Jeter, Ron Guidry, and Ken Singleton are among the past winners. Each team’s nominee can be seen here, and the fan voting opens tomorrow. Congrats to both Rivera and Robertson. They do a ton of work for charity and in the community and they deserve to be recognized for it.
Boone Logan and his barking biceps — he described it as tightness in the back of his elbow — went for an MRI this morning but the results were not yet available when Joe Girardi spoke to the media before this afternoon’s game. As we wait for the update, here are some other injury info courtesy of Chad Jennings, Joel Sherman, and Andy McCullough:
- Shawn Kelley (triceps) threw in the bullpen with no pain this morning. “Felt real good. Felt better than it has in a few months, actually,” he said. He could be available tomorrow.
- David Robertson (shoulder) feels better, but he’s still going to rest for another 3-4 days before playing catch. He’ll then throw a bullpen session before rejoining the bullpen.
- Kevin Youkilis (back) is hitting off a tee and soft toss. He’s heading to Tampa on Monday to play in simulated games and is shooting to rejoin the team in the final week of the season.
David Robertson will be out 5-6 days shoulder tendinitis, Joe Girardi announced. He’s already gone for tests and thankfully it’s nothing structural. Considering the current state of the bullpen, losing Robertson for any length of time is devastating.
Joe Girardi confirmed David Robertson was not available on Wednesday due to arm fatigue. That explains why he didn’t come out for a second inning in Tuesday night’s loss as well. Robertson told Girardi he was a bit gassed after pitching in three of the last four days and four of the last six days. The Yankees are off on Thursday, so their setup man will get two straight days off — and three out of four off — before starting the weekend series against the Padres on Friday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details.
No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. We start today with the A’s.
Let’s not kid ourselves here — not a whole lot has gone right for the Yankees this season. Not only have they dealt with a ton injuries, but they’ve also dealt with a ton of re-injuries as well. Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), and Derek Jeter (ankle, quad) all got hurt against almost immediately after coming off the DL. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Despite all that, the Bombers sit seven games over .500 and just three games back of a playoff spot. They’re probably further back than they would like, but they are definitely still in the hunt despite all those injuries and re-injuries. The performance of the guys in this post is a big reason why. Here are the Grade A’s.
All of the injuries mean Cano has to be The Man, and that is exactly what he has been overall. Robbie is hitting .302/.386/.531 (143 wRC+) with 21 homers while starting every single game this year (91 of 95 at second base). He’s played 807.1 of 849.1 possible defensive innings (95.1%), which is nuts. Dude is an iron man. That offensive performance is right in line with what he’s done the last three years, and in fact his OBP is a career-high because he’s started taking walks when pitched around. Cano went through a stretch where he was flailing at pitcher’s pitches for a while. Thankfully that has ended. Robbie has been an absolute rock for the Yankees this season and deserves to be in the MVP conversation at this point.
Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes? That seems silly now. Kuroda has pitched like a legitimate ace this year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 3.62 ERA FIP in 118.2 innings. Among qualified AL starters, he ranks second in ERA behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53). That’s pretty remarkable considering his home ballpark. Kuroda was a huge All-Star snub — seriously, they took Chris Tillman (!) before him — but I’m totally fine with him getting four days to recharge the batteries for the second half. The Yankees are going to need him. Kuroda has been brilliant since coming to New York and especially this year. What a stud.
Forty-three years old? Missed almost all of last season with a knee injury? No big deal. Rivera has been as good as ever in 2013, going 30-for-32 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 34.1 innings. He’s actually giving up more hits than usual, but it seems like most have been weakly hit bloopers that just find some outfield grass. Hopefully his .333 BABIP returns to his .264 career average in the second half. The Yankees have relied on their pitching staff heavily this year, and Rivera has been there to shut the door and preserve every lead time after time. I can’t believe he’s retiring after this season; it looks like he could pitch forever.
Rivera can’t do it all himself, of course. Robertson continues to be elite as his setup man, pitching to a 2.11 ERA and 2.51 FIP in 38.1 innings. The control-challenged right-hander cut down on his walks in the second half last season and that has carried over to this year — his 2.82 BB/9 (8.0 BB%) is far better than his 4.10 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) career average. Robertson and Rivera are arguably the best setup-closer combination in baseball, and the Yankees are lucky to have such an elite end-game duo. They’ve leaned on these guys a ton this year and they continue to get the job done.
Yes, every manager makes questionable pitching changes and calls for weird double-steals from time to time. It comes with the territory. But think about the job Girardi has done controlling what could have been a very chaotic situation. Players are getting hurt seemingly non-stop and the Yankees have played just about .500 ball since the calendar flipped to May, but things around the team remain relatively calm and orderly. This season could have very easily spiraled out of control, but Girardi has prevented that from happening. He deserves a lot of credit and should get Manager of the Year consideration in a few months.
Blue Jays right-hander Steve Delabar beat out David Robertson in the AL All-Star Final Vote, the league announced. It would have been cool to see Robertson become a two-time All-Star, but I’m totally cool with him getting four days of rest next week given that he’s on pace for a career-high workload. Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera are the Yankees only two All-Stars this season.