There are many questions still surrounding the Yankees heading into 2014. One of the biggest being about the closer role. How do you replace the greatest closer of all time? The easy answer is you don’t. No matter who you put in that role, they will never be as good as Mariano Rivera. However, the Yankees will try to get as close as they can and their best option is Grant Balfour.
It has been believed for years that David Robertson will take over as the closer after Rivera retires. That time has come and the Yankees don’t seem as committed to the idea. Unfortunately, he still seems like the lead candidate for the job. I am a huge David Robertson fan but moving him to the closer role would just be stupid. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
There have been numerous times that Robertson came in to pitch in save situations and struggled greatly especially in 2012 after the Rivera injury. Robertson is the best eighth inning guy in baseball. In fact, in his career, David Robertson has posted a 1.94 ERA in the eighth inning while posting an ERA north of four in the 9th inning or later which is unacceptable from a closer. The Yankees would be no where if Rivera put up those numbers in the 9th or later throughout his career.
The Yankees need to make a move and sign a proven closer, and Grant Balfour is the obvious choice. Balfour has a career ERA of 3.23 in the 9th inning or later but did not become a full time closer until 2012. In career save situations, Balfour has a 2.70 ERA with 72 saves including 24 in 2012 and 38 in 2013. He posted an ERA under 2.60 in each of those two seasons.
On top of that, he has a fiery passion for the game and shows it during his appearances. He is not one of those cocky in your face guys and is able to still show respect while showing clear emotion. It’s something that makes me like Balfour even more and I am sure many other fans feel the same way. Although we have gotten use to the class and emotionless acts of Mariano Rivera, who would be against someone like Balfour who has the ability to pump up a team and their entire fan base like he did in Oakland?
The deal that Grant Balfour had in place with the Orioles was for 2 years at $15 million ($7.5 M/ year). That deal later fell apart because of “injury” issues. The Orioles saw something with his wrist and knee in a physical they didn’t like. Balfour was just as shocked as everyone else because he does not have any recent injury history and both him and his agent say he is healthy and ready to pitch. After Balfour’s fall out with the Orioles, the Yankees can use that as leverage in their negotiations with him and get him on a very good deal.
Regardless of any further moves the Yankees make, is still seems likely they will sail right past the $189 million payroll. If that is the case, they might as well go after Balfour. Even if the Yankees decide to appoint Robertson as their closer, at least, they would have a legitimate backup plan. If for the slim chance the Yankees decide to remain under the $189 million threshold, Alex Rodriguez was nice enough to donate over $20 million to their Grant Balfour fund.
The Yankees must make this move now no matter what their intentions may be. A proven closer is the most important piece of a team. What is the point of getting a lead if you are just gonna hand the game over to a closer who is going to blow the save anyway? I am not completely against the idea of Robertson as closer but with his proven inability to save games easily, a guy like Grant Balfour is a must if they want any hope of making the promise land.