With the emergence of Dellin Betances and the recent acquisition of free agent Andrew Miller, the Yankees have insured themselves if they cannot re-sign David Robertson. The closer is reportedly asking for a contract worth roughly $50 million over four years, a price and or length that general manager Brian Cashman is unwilling to meet. According to The Daily News' John Harper, a New York team should pony up the money for the veteran reliever, but that New York team should be the Mets instead. Harper says:
"The Mets should say thank you very much and swoop in to make him their closer, giving them the best chance for their bullpen to be as imposing as their starting rotation- at least as they project it. GM Sandy Alderson might see a four-year, $48 million deal as overpaying, but Robertson's proven reliability would offer an important psychological benefit for a team that will be dealing with new expectations of contending for a playoff spot."
On the surface, Robertson seems unnecessary. Though certainly not without their own flaws, the Mets have a number of relievers who could theoretically make the ninth inning their own in 2015. Jenrry Mejia, long ago anointed the future Mets closer, was finally shifted into the role mid-season last year and performed well enough, posting a 2.97 ERA in 33 save situations. Jeurys Familia blossomed in his role as a late-inning reliever, posting a 2.12 ERA over 68 innings that came between the seventh and ninth innings.
Dark horse Vic Black has the necessary stuff—physically and mentally—to succeed as a closer if he is able to fine-tune his control. In addition, former closer Bobby Parnell will be returning to the mound some time in 2015, recovered from his 2013 neck surgery and 2014 Tommy John surgery. Perhaps most importantly for the organization, all four pitchers are making reasonable salaries, with the four players combined making less than one year of Robertson's current asking price.
Healthy competition often brings out the best in individuals, and regarding the closer role, manager Terry Collins seemed to be hoping that it will induce his relievers to perform better this spring. "I don't think you can go to spring training with one guy, saying, ‘This is going to be our closer'", Collins said. "You've got to say, ‘Here it is, boys, who wants it?'"
When you get down to it, however, David Robertson is simply a better pitcher than anyone the Mets currently have. His fastball comes in hot with natural cutting action and his curveball is a legitimate weapon, giving the right-hander a deadly 1-2 punch that has been sending batters back to the bench in frustration for years. Over his seven-year career, he has posted a cumulative 2.81 ERA over 393.1 innings and 402 appearances. Since 2011, when the right-hander really came into his own, Robertson has posted a 2.20 ERA over 258 innings and 268 appearances.
Key to this transformation was getting his walk rate under control. From 2008 to 2011, he walked 4.7 batters per nine innings; since then, he has trimmed that to 2.8 batters per nine innings. Even when he was walking more batters than you'd like from a late-inning reliever, Robertson was notching plenty of strikeouts. For his career, he has a K/9 rate of 12 batters per nine innings, with a low of 10.4 per nine in 2013 and a high of 13.5 in 2011.
In addition to his on-the-field impact, Harper suggests that signing Robertson would have an important psychological impact on the Mets as well. Signing the veteran closer would signal that Sandy Alderson is serious about putting together the best possible team in 2015 and beyond, offering "...fans more reason to believe this team is ready to turn the corner—perhaps even hope that ownership is ready to make a financial commitment to winning again."
For what it's worth, the two sides do not seem to be engaged in active discussions, and Harper admits as much. There is, however, no doubt that the addition of David Robertson would improve the team. The question is, do the improvements that he brings to the team as a whole outweigh his asking price and the surrender of another draft pick (though Sandy Alderson has previously stated that the team would be willing to give up another draft pick for the right player)?