The New York Yankees have not only failed to sign one of the several free-agents closers, but the team has also completely avoided having their name seriously involved in any type of deal with a closer. Joe Nathan, John Axford and Grant Balfour all are off the market (Balfour’s deal is still pending with a physical), which leaves the Yankees with the options of Fernando Rodney or Jonathan Papelbon if they choose to go the free-agent route, or perhaps officially giving the role to set-up man David Robertson. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than two months, the Yankees have yet to publicly address the vacancy left by the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera.
Rodney had one dominant season in 2012, but completely fell off last year. I doubt the Yanks want a 36-year-old closer, in Rodney, who only has one season to point to out of an 11-year career. As for Papelbon, he actually makes the most sense for the Yankees out of all the free-agents. The 33-year-old is coming off of two solid years with the Philadelphia Phillies and could come cheap if the reports are true that Philly is willing to eat some of his contract in potential trades.
However, Papelbon posted the second lowest strikeout total of his career last season and he also recorded only 29 saves, the least in his career since becoming a full-time closer. There’s also the fact that Yankee fans love to hate Papelbon after he spent seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox. I’m not saying that the front office would seriously consider that point of view, but it’s there.
These circumstances seem to be leaving the door wide open for Robertson. A team doesn’t just lose the greatest player of all-time at his respective position and not act on it for three months. I believe the Yankees non-action in filling the closer role proves they are ready to hand Robertson the keys to the car that Mo has been driving in the Bronx for the better part of two decades.
The Yankees do, however, need to get more help in the bullpen as security if Robertson fails early on. After signing several of the biggest free agents this offseason, the Yankees are a win-now team and they can’t just hope Robertson works out. Even if another closer or set-up man is brought in, I believe Robertson should be the Yankees go-to guy. He has paid his dues and studied under the best possible teacher in the world to become a great closer. It’s put-up or shut-up for Robertson.