Apparently, the Mets are now a team you go to when you want to win. So says David Robertson, who the Mets inked to a one-year, $10 million deal shortly after the winter meetings. Makes Met fans feel an awful lot like Paul Rudd, wondering aloud “who woulda thought?” Sure feels nice when intense competitors with sterling reputations in the game are eager to join the Mets instead of running for the hills.
For the majority of the 2010s, Robertson was legitimately one of the best bullpen arms in baseball, posting the best performance among major league relievers outside of the elite trio of Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman. A flexor tendon injury eventually led to Tommy John in 2019, and Robertson missed all of 2020 due to a setback in his recovery. He came out and looked good in the 2021 Olympics for Team USA, however, and quickly signed a deal with the Rays. A strong performance down the stretch earned him another deal with the Cubs, and he looked almost like his old self with a 2.40 ERA backed by a 3.05 FIP and a 79 DRA-.
Incredibly, Robertson remains very similar to the high-end pitcher he was in his prime years from a stuff perspective. He threw his cutter harder than he has in more than a decade in 2022 and couple that with his most effective slider and curveball he’s had since 2018 per Statcast’s pitch run values. He continues to post elite spin rates and overcomes his middling velocity with high-end extension. Aside from a slight propensity for walks - 4.95 BB/9 due in large point to a very low 40.8% Zone% - there’s not a lot to quibble about based on the top-line numbers.
Dig into his splits and you might find some reason for worry, as Robertson was quite a bit worse than his overall line after a midseason trade to Philadelphia. Most of this was due to a disastrous October where he walked a whopping 9.26 batters-per-9. This came with a sizable drop in cutter velocity; consistently above 93 MPH in the first half, but slipping to 92 in September and October. On the one hand, this could be an ominous portent of another injury or simply an age-related collapse. On the other, the Phillies rode Robertson very hard as they made their push for a playoff spot, and this could all simply be a product of overuse. It’ll be impossible to say one way or the other until we see him back on a mound come spring.
So Robertson could be good (based on his overall numbers and the resurgence of his stuff) or could be about to collapse (based on a late season slump), real stellar analysis Lukas. Realistically though, this is the conclusion you reach for most relievers, a position group that is notoriously difficult to project. I’d go so far as to argue that Robertson is no more likely to have a bad 2023 than any of the other non-Edwin Diaz relievers at the top of this year’s free agent market (Robert Suarez, Rafael Montero, Kenley Jansen). All of those players signed for similar AAVs but for multiple years, meaning their teams will be saddled with an ugly deadweight for extra years should things go south. The Mets, meanwhile, gave Robertson only one year, allowing them to quickly change course if last season’s second half swoon continues.
In the end, the Mets needed to add multiple relievers somehow this offseason. They opted for a potentially high-end option with some injury- and age-related risk. Much like we talked about with the Kodai Senga signing, this gives the team additional positive variance, something I believe it makes sense to incorporate when aiming for a deep playoff run where the importance of elite talent is magnified. Ultimately, it’s a perfectly cromulent addition made at reasonable price, a solid B move.