David Robertson had a tryout as the New York Yankees’ closer in 2012 after Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending knee injury. It didn’t go well. He recorded two saves and blew three before the job was given to Rafael Soriano, who ultimately recorded 42 saves.
Heading into 2014, the Yanks need help at closer yet again as Rivera is calling it a career. But their previous rescuer, Soriano, is now a member of the Washington Nationals and even though Robertson has been immensely successful as the eighth-inning man, the organization isn’t sold on him as the closer of the future.
As a result, New York is rumored to be interested in Joe Nathan – which is huge mistake. No matter how insecure the Yankees feel about Robertson, they should not pursue Nathan to become the new closer. Yes, he was great in 2013 with the Texas Rangers, recording 43 saves with a 1.39 ERA; but coming off a great year and a two-year, $14 million contract, the Yankees would have to pay serious money to get him – money that would be better off spent elsewhere.
He’s also 40-years old. When applied to Nathan, the “closer of the future” moniker is more like, “closer of next year until he starts getting lit up in Yankee Stadium.” Nathan would essentially be an expensive stopgap, not a legitimate solution.
What elevates Rivera from great closer to legendary status is how he performed in the postseason. In 32 playoff series, he owns an 8-1 record, 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA. Consider this: Rivera allowed 11 earned runs in his postseason career. 12 men have walked on the moon.
Nathan, however, has been terrible in the playoffs. In five playoff series, he’s 0-2. In nine innings pitched, he’s allowed 14 hits, nine runs and eight walks for a 9.00 ERA. The Yankees should know of Nathan’s October struggles better than anyone considering they’ve beaten him so many times.
Nathan is still one of the best closers in the game, but it would be foolish for the Yankees to sign him. Rivera’s injury in 2012 was sudden and shocking, and Robertson was thrown into a role for which he wasn’t prepared. With Soriano (an established closer) looming to take over, Robertson was set up for failure.
But now, he’s had an entire year to mentally prepare for Rivera’s departure and his own promotion in the bullpen. In 2013, he led the team with a 2.04 ERA and led relievers with 77 strikeouts. He’s clearly the best relief pitcher on the staff and he deserves another shot at being the closer.
Even if the Yankees want to keep Robertson in the eighth-inning role, Shawn Kelley could step up as the closer. He definitely has the stuff to slam the door in the ninth (71 strikeout in 53.1 innings pitched in 2013); he just needs to learn better control. The point is that the Yankees have enough options in the bullpen, and they don’t need to spend upwards of $7 million a year for a 40-year-old closer who chokes in October.
Nathan took over for Rivera in the All-Star game this year. He better not take over for Rivera on the Yankees.