Fernando Rodney has agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
Prior to the deal, some believed the New York Yankees could have used Rodney as a backup closer should David Robertson get hurt or fail to perform as well as he has in the eighth inning role. Honestly, that would have been a terrible idea in terms of money and would not have been fair to Robertson.
Rodney’s an excellent relief pitcher who has racked up 85 saves over the past two seasons. But after giving Jacoby Ellsbury the third-highest contract for an outfielder in the history of baseball and Masahiro Tanaka the fifth-highest contract for a pitcher in the history of baseball in addition to the huge free agent deals for Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, New York cannot afford to blow another $14 million on a 37-year-old insurance policy. That kind of spending would be reckless even for the Yankees.
Furthermore, the organization needs to show some faith in Robertson. I realize he didn’t perform well in his brief tryout at closer in 2012, but that was a completely different situation. Mariano Rivera’s season-ending knee injury was earth-shattering. For all anyone knew, Rivera’s career could have ended right there on the warning track of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
And there was Robertson, cast into a role for which he was not prepared while proven closer Rafael Soriano was waiting in the wings to take over if he slipped up. He was set up for failure. After Robertson struggled, it was an obvious decision for Joe Girardi to move him back to the eighth inning where he excelled and promote Soriano to closer duties.
2014 should be completely different for Robertson. He was the Yankees’ best reliever last year, leading the team in ERA (2.04) while leading the bullpen in strikeouts (77) and appearances (70). He’s now had a full offseason to mentally prepare himself to be the Yankees’ closer. He’s ready to succeed the greatest in the history of the game.
Part of the mentality of being a closer is that there’s no one else left to pitch. You and you alone are either going to slam the door for your team or blow the narrow lead for which your teammates just played eight hard-fought innings. Furthermore, the reason you have this role is because you are bar none the best reliever on the team. This is what Robertson will think about when he warms up and embracing it will help him succeed in his new role. Add Rodney to the mix as a two-year insurance policy and that dynamic is shattered.