Should Yankees Buy Low on Former Closer David Robertson?

Aug 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher David Robertson (30) reacts after a 10-7 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher David Robertson (30) reacts after a 10-7 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former Yankees closer David Robertson of the Chicago White Sox stands out as a potential August trade target for New York.

While the New York Yankees remain in the thick of the American League Wild Card race, there are still a number of gaping holes on the roster following the club’s trade deadline fire-sale that need to be addressed if they truly want to make a run in 2016.

The team’s most notable area of weakness is their bullpen after dealing away both Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last month. Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard have done an admirable job of setting up Dellin Betances in August, but things are pretty bleak aside from that trio.

A familiar face who was recently listed by Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors as one of the “Top 20 Trade Candidates: August Edition” could help shore up the Yankees bullpen depth. 

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Chicago White Sox closer David Roberston, who compiled a 2.81 ERA and 2.74 FIP in 393.1 innings in pinstripes from 2008-2014 has been shopped since the trade deadline. The two years and $25 million remaining on his contract are an obstacle after a second straight mediocre campaign on the South Side, but if the Sox are willing to throw in a few bucks, there could be a match there.

Now 31 years old, Robertson has a 3.67 ERA and 3.83 FIP in 54 innings of work this season. Last year, his ERA of 3.41 had been up a tick over his career average, but his 2.52 FIP suggested he was the victim of some bad luck.

The main culprit seems to be Robertson’s old control issues rearing their ugly head. He’s walked 4.50 batters per nine this year after a career-low 1.85 BB/9 in 2015.

Robertson’s stuff seems undiminished at least. His four-seamer has averaged 92.8 mph, which is actually his highest since 2011 with the Yankees. However, his strikeout numbers have declined for the third straight year (He’s struck out 37.1%, 34.4%, and 26.4% of batters faced in 2014-2016). That’s probably a red flag.

If any club knows how to right the ship for Robertson, it would be New York. The Yankees drafted him all the way back in 2006 and he spent the vast majority of his professional career before leaving as a free agent. Even if he doesn’t return to form, he’s a useful reliever who could help solidify the pen.

The Yankees front office probably have some degree of interest at the right price. They did put in a claim on Robertson last year, although that was rumored to be primarily a move to block the division rival Blue Jays from acquiring him. At the very least we know they were willing to take on his contract at that point.

For what it’s worth, Monday it was reported that New York has been very aggressive with making waiver claims in August according to rival executives.

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Homecomings are always nice, and letting David Robertson walk after 2014 wasn’t easy. It would definitely be fun to see him back in the Bronx. Will it happen? Probably a long-shot because of the money. But hopefully the Yankees front office acquires at least one proven arm to beef up the bullpen for this stretch run.