White Sox: Could David Robertson be a consideration at closer?
Sep 6, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson (30) pitches during the ninth inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees defeated the Royals 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Every team in the majors right now is playing the “waiting game” so to speak as we await the start of the annual winter meetings with personnel of all 32 MLB teams, but this year it really seems as though something special could happen with the Chicago White Sox.
Maybe I’ve been reading too many rumors, but if the White Sox do go out and sign (or trade for) a big-time right-handed starter to go with their current group of left-handed starters, then that could make for a very exciting 2015 season.
Besides the starting pitching, there is the the bullpen of the White Sox, which as we all know wasn’t very good last season.
Here is what CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes wrote about the potential of the White Sox signing a closer in a recent article on csnchicago.com:
"“With their biggest arm (Nate Jones) injured for all but two games in 2014, White Sox relievers — who led MLB with a 52.1-percent ground ball rate — struck out 7.24 batters per nine innings. General manager Rick Hahn’s search is off to a good start with the signing of left-hander Zach Duke, but the White Sox could use even more help with Jones expected out until at least the end of July.”"
It is a shame Jones will be out until late July, and in all honesty, I’d rather the White Sox use Jake Petricka, Javy Guerra and Zach Putnam in a regular relief role rather than as a closer.
Aug 17, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson (30) throws a pitch during the ninth inning at Tropicana Field. New York Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This past season, the White Sox closer-by-committee finished with 36 total saves in 57 chances, meaning they lost the tie or lead 21 times, which is pretty unacceptable among eight pitchers.
The White Sox leader in saves in ’14 was Petricka with 14 saves in 18 opportunities. Putnam had six saves in seven chances, and Guerra had one save
in six opportunities.
With that said, I really believe the White Sox will either sign a closer off the free agent list or even make a trade for one during the winter meetings.
One “expensive” free agent to consider is David Robertson, who played for the New York Yankees for the past seven seasons, including being the full-time closer last season.
Robertson is just 29 years old, and in 64.1 innings pitched last season, he had an ERA of 3.08 with 96 strikeouts and 39 saves, the most of any free agent relief pitcher this offseason.
One Positive: Robertson held his opponents to a .192 batting average as the Yankees closer. He’s also used to pitching under high pressure, being the player who had to replace future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera following his retirement after the 2013 season.
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One Negative: His price tag. CBS Sports reported on Dec. 2 that the Yankees are unlikely to re-sign Robertson, as his contract could be more than what the Philadelphia Phillies gave their closer, Jonathan Papelbon.
The article said:
"“Robertson is likely to make in the range of $12 million to $14 million per season.”"
More Stats: Though he was 4-5 last season, in 44 chances he had just five blown saves, which is a much better ratio than the 21 by the White Sox closer-by-committee of 2014.
Robertson also had a WAR (wins above replacement) of 1.2, and in his entire MLB career, he has never had a negative WAR.
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We’ve all said this, but think: if the White Sox did have 21 blown saves last season, and cut that number down to seven or even 10 blown saves, that would have made a huge difference in the AL Central standings.
I don’t know if the White Sox are willing to make a deal for a closer like Robertson because of the lofty price tag, but who is to say Jones will be the same pitcher once he returns from his injury?
If the White Sox were to even consider Robertson as a free agent signing, it would be a risk for the contract he would need to sign. On the other hand, if they go in-house at closer, that could weaken other parts of the bullpen, plus it is a risk banking on Jones would be the same pitcher he was before the injury. That isn’t a guarantee, either.
All of this is a risk for the White Sox. Now, I ask you: of these two scenarios, Robertson or in-house at closer, which do you prefer for the overall best move for the White Sox?