The New York Yankees have not stated that David Robertson will absolutely be their closer in 2014. However, it has been a reasonably safe assumption lately. There has been limited chatter regarding their interest in acquiring a closer – until now. Right hander Grant Balfour had a two-year, $15 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles all but in the bag until the team backed out at the last minute. The apparent reason was a problem with his physical examination.
Balfour’s camp insists that he is completely healthy. The 35-year-old veteran had surgery in 2005 to repair his right labrum and rotator cuff, but he has been healthy and reliable since then. Physician Koco Eaton performed an MRI on Balfour’s shoulder in 2011 when he signed with the Oakland Athletics.
According to Koco, the MRI now looks exactly the same as it did then. He ceded that it doesn’t look like a healthy shoulder, but it looks like a healthy shoulder for a person who throws baseballs for a living.
In Oakland, Balfour outperformed his career numbers. Overall, Balfour sports a 3.27 ERA, but he came in under 2.60 with Oakland for each of his three years. He logged 38 saves last year and made his first career appearance in the All-Star game. It would appear that Balfour is only getting better with age.
So why not sign him? First, the Orioles citing health issues is concerning. Although this is likely a case of differing medical opinions, the fact that one team backed out of a deal as a result of a physical should always give other teams pause. Secondly, the Yankees have bigger priorities at the moment – namely, starting pitching.
Finally, I’m not convinced Robertson isn’t the guy. He has earned a chance to make his case for the closer’s role. The Yankees have already lost one homegrown guy in Robinson Cano, and despite what they might say, they at least thought about trading Brett Gardner as well. World Series No. 28 shouldn’t be completely purchased. I’d like to look back and see that it was at least partially built from inside the house.
No one will ever fill Mariano Rivera‘s shoes, but Robertson has been an exceptional bullpen contributor thus far. Doesn’t the protege of the greatest closer of all time at least deserve a shot?