David Robertson has established himself this season as one of the best closers in the majors. He has converted 33 of 35 save opportunities, including his current streak of 21 straight. He has 71 strikeouts in only 46 2/3 innings. He was snubbed for a selection to the All-Star team this season, but if he can continue to pitch as effectively as he has this season, one can easily forecast that he will make many future appearances at the Midsummer Classic. The bigger question is whose uniform will he be wearing at those future All Star games? Robertson is a free agent at the end of the season, and has put himself in line for a huge multi-year contract. Will the Yankees open up the vault for the dominant right-handed reliever?
Robertson was a 17th round draft pick of the Yankees in 2006 out of the University of Alabama. He worked his way through the minors before breaking into the majors in 2008. He blossomed as a key set up man for the great Mariano Rivera, earning an All-Star selection in 2010. In his first season as the closer, Robertson has followed in the giant footsteps of Rivera and been as dependable a closer as there is in the majors. He is third in the American League in saves and is sporting an ERA of 2.51. He is averaging an absurd 14 strikeouts per nine innings.
The best closer in the majors right now is probably Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. Kimbrel signed a four-year $42 million deal before the season started. Robertson will likely receive a larger contract, not because he is better than Kimbrel, but because he has more leverage. Kimbrel was still eligible for arbitration for three more years and not a free agent. Robertson will be able to negotiate with every major league team this offseason, not just the Yankees.
Robertson, who is earning $5.215 million this season, is only 29-years-old. He will likely command a contract on par with Jonathan Papelbon and former teammate Rafael Soriano. Paplebon signed a four-year $50 million contract with a vesting option for a five-year with the Phillies before the 2012 season. Soriano left the Yankees to sign with the Nationals for two years and $22 million with a team option for a third year. Roberton will be a year younger than Paplebon was when he signed his mega dea,l but will have made considerably less over the course of his career to this point than the former Red Sox closer. Robertson advanced through the arbitration process as a set up man and not a closer as did Paplebon, and thus was awarded considerably less money. This may lead Robertson to seek a bigger contract than the Yankees are prepared to offer.
The Yankees need to pony up the money and sign Robertson to a long term deal making him one of, if not the, highest paid closer in the game. Dellin Betances is the likely fall back plan for the ninth inning in 2015 if the Yankees fail to sign Robertson. Betances has been nothing short of amazing this season. He has closer stuff and would likely be able to do well in the role, but as was the case before this season, the Yankees will need to replace their eighth innning setup man as well as having an unproven closer pitching the ninth. What are the odds the Yankees would be able to fill both those holes effectively two seasons in a row?
The bullpen has been the rock upon which this team has been built. It has been the one constant in a season of ups and downs, through lineups that can’t hit on an everyday basis to a plethora of starting pitching landing on the DL. The Yankees need to keep their fantastic bullpen intact and build for the future. Robertson has done everything throughout his career to prove himself worthy as a successor to the great Rivera. His play this season has clinched his place as the correct heir to the greatest closer of all-time. The Yankees need to pay the money to make sure Robertson remains where he belongs, wearing pinstripes, while pitching the ninth.