Bomber Bites With Billy Brost: Why The Time Is Now To Deal David Robertson
May 18, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcherDavid Robertson
(30) pitches during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, I’m saying it. I might not be the only one thinking it, but I could be the first to say it, and I’ll stand behind my beliefs 100 percent. It is time to deal New York Yankees’ closer David Robertson. The team has more holes than money and/or prospects can fill. Right now, they are in the thick of a divisional race with the Toronto Blue Jays of all teams, and as of right now, only the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox look to be out of it.
One of the few things the Yankees have a plethora of, that they can draw upon at any given time, is their depth of bullpen arms. Whether it’s at the big league level, or deep into the minor league system, there are power arms galore just waiting for the opportunity to pitch in the Bronx. David Robertson, nicknamed “Houdini” simply isn’t passing the eye-ball test. I don’t want him on the mound in a high-impact situation with a game or season on the line.
Sure, he’s only blown one save this season, but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to explain, and no, I’m not suffering from a Mariano Rivera hangover. I blogged last season that Mo didn’t look nearly as elite as he had pre-knee injury, and that for his sake, I hoped he retired. He did, and we’ve moved on. Well, it’s time to move on from David Robertson as the Yankees’ closer. A team should trade from a position of strength, and to be quite honest, the Yankees wouldn’t miss David Robertson one bit if they dealt him. In 16 games (16 1/3 innings), D-Rob has only allowed 4 earned runs, while going 11-of-12 in save chances in 2014. So why am I not sold? In 2 of his last 4 appearances, he’s allowed an earned run in save situations. A team needs to strike while the iron is hot. There are plenty of teams that have needs for either a closer or an 8th inning set up man.
The Yankees can’t demote Robertson back to the set-up role and give someone else the closer’s job. That’s called messing with team chemistry. As I mentioned before, the team has needs–primarily in the starting rotation and the infield that cannot be addressed by writing a check or trading away just one prospect. To get talent, you have to give up talent. The fact that Robertson is nearing free agency doesn’t bode well for his overall value, but if traded to the right team, the Bombers could get suitable value in return regardless of whether or not Robertson is a rental.
One team that might be an ideal fit for Robertson and the Yankees, are the recently visited Chicago White Sox. The ChiSox have what the Yankees seek: an inexpensive middle infielder that has been relatively inconsistent over his career, but has bounced back nicely in 2014. I’m talking about Gordon Beckham. He can play both third base and second base, and allows the Yankees to end the Brian Roberts experiment once and for all. Yangervis Solarte could remain the everyday third baseman, Beckham slides over to second, the team releases Roberts, and Kelly Johnson goes back to doing what he was signed to do: be the super-utility man he’s always been.
Why would the White Sox want David Robertson? For one, they are still in the hunt in the AL Central, against all odds, and have a dire need for a closer. Former Dodgers’ reliever Ronald Bellisario is currently closing out games, and although I don’t have much faith in Robin Ventura‘s ability to manage, even he can’t feel comfortable with that idea. It’s a win-win for both clubs, and provides immediate upgrades for both the Yankees’ lineup, and the White Sox’ bullpen. The Yankees could then promote young hurlers such as Danny Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, or Diego Moreno. Robertson is expendable.
Looking for alternative to the Robertson-for-Beckham deal? Here’s another one to think about: David Robertson, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, and Kelly Johnson to the Houston Astros for Jose Altuve. The Astros farm system is LOADED with young talent, and they attempted to make somewhat of a splash in free agency over the winter, making several contract offers to some marquee players, including Shin-Soo Choo. Why wouldn’t they offer Robertson an extension? And if he walks at the end of the season? They get what they cherish more than anything: a compensatory draft pick, plus a speedy, glove-savvy outfielder to develop along with a sure-fire, middle-of-the-order catching prospect. Kelly Johnson finishes out his 1-year deal replacing Altuve, and he enters free agency at the end of the season.
Robertson’s salary is affordable for Houston to re-sign him, even with a modest raise from becoming a closer, one that the Astros desperately need. The Yankees on the flip-side, get a 24-year-old second baseman, who is in the prime of his career, under control for the foreseeable future, and is currently leading the American League in four offensive categories including: plate appearances, at-bats, hits, and stolen bases. Altuve could slot in as either the new lead-off man depending on what Joe Girardi wishes to do with Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, and Brett Gardner, or he can slot in the number two hole, and Girardi is going to have to make a tough decision with his Captain, most likely a demotion to the bottom-third of the order.
One last option for the Yankees, is to make a deal with the fading Pittsburgh Pirates. Sure, they have Jason Grilli recently activated, and have former Yankees’ bullpen prospect Mark Melancon as his heir apparent, but what if Grilli gets hurt again? A team can never have enough quality bullpen depth, and with Robertson’s contract expiring, it might be an intriguing play for the Pirates. Perhaps not. The target for the Yankees would obviously be 28-year-old Neil Walker. He would provide a switch-hitting, power option and upgrade at second base for the Yankees. Again, if Robertson were to walk from the Steel City and the Pirates made an attempt to keep him, they would get a compensatory pick, which is how they have built their solid foundation. Walker would require a prospect as well, but with him being an up and down player in terms of consistency, the Pirates may not require a top-tier prospect to package along with Robertson. Maybe John Ryan Murphy gets the deal done. Chris Stewart and Russell Martin can’t catch forever, and Murphy has proven he can handle a big league pitching staff with the leather, and can hit his weight and then some.
Before I forget, you are probably asking yourself who the new Yankees’ closer would be if they indeed traded away David Robertson? The guy who was my first pick to make the team a week into spring training. He throws close to 100 mph, and has been absolutely lights out all season long. He’s a converted starter and is young, and under team control as well. He’s a menacing presence on the mound…everything that makes a closer a scary good closer. I’m speaking of Dellin Betances. I’ll cover more about him in another piece, so back to dealing D-Rob.
No matter how you might feel about it, the Yankees have to shake things up with the trading season beginning to take shape. Teams are starting to fade, while others are proving they are legitimate contenders. Hal Steinbrenner said he’ll spend money to keep this team competitive. Let’s see if Brian Cashman has the stones to make this team a title contender, or another first or second round knockout playoff team.