David Robertson, better known these days as Mariano Rivera’s replacement, is set to be a free agent following the 2014 season. Just like Brett Gardner, he is a young, homegrown fan favorite and has thrived in the pinstripes. He has been absolutely shut down in his previous role as Mo’s set up man, but his pay day relies on how he performs as the closer in 2014.
DRob blossomed as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball during the 2011 season with a 13.50 K/9 and an incredible 1.08 ERA in 70 appearances. He wasn’t a one year wonder either, in his last three seasons he has been very impressive. Over 205 games in those three years: 193.2 IP, 11.99 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 1.91 ERA. He has been the poster child of consistency. His lifetime ERA is 2.76 through 339 games with 428 strikeouts and 8 saves (just 644 away from Mo.)
Now the multi million dollar question is does that success translate to the 9th inning? We have to wait until the season gets underway but Hal Steinbrenner, and even Mariano himself, has already given DRob their stamp of approval. He knows that he is stepping into a role that Yankees fans expect greatness out of, we have been spoiled in that department for two decades. “Look, I am not replacing Mariano,” Robertson tells USA TODAY Sports. “You can’t replace legends. Somebody like Mo, you may never see again the game of baseball. Just like Michael Jordan. Just like Derek. Nobody replaces those guys, but somebody is going to have to take over their jobs. You may never see someone like Mo again in the game of baseball. But he’s gone now. Someone has got to take over that role. It’s just that I will never be Mo. I hope people can understand that.”
The Yankees have not officially named Robertson as the new closer. But there are no other choices. The Yankees know it and DRob knows it. The harder job is finding the right man to replace Robertson in the eighth inning than DRob replacing Mo. He has an arsenal that features a sneaky fastball, lethal curveball and fairly new changeup (and maybe Mo taught him the secrets of the cutter.) He is one of only six pitchers in history to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in each of his first six seasons. He’s one of the friendliest guys in the clubhouse, even on his worst days, he has never snapped at the media or the fans.
The market for closers has been fairly consistent when it comes to contracts. Other top closers have gotten somewhere between $10 and $15 million per year. In 2012, the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon four years, $50 million, giving him about $12.5 million a year. Francisco Rodriguez was regarded as one of the game’s top closers when he signed with the Mets before 2009. He got three years, $37 million deal for around $12.3 million a year. If he can be as destructive in the 9th as he was in the 8th than there is no question he will get his pay day from the Yankees.
He is calm on the mound, doesn’t show boat and learned from the greatest closer of all time for 6 years, what more could you ask for in a closer? Every single eyeball will be on him this season. Don’t expect to see DRob in anything other than pinstripes for years to come.
Now if only he would change his intro song. “Sweet Home Alabama” doesn’t really strike fear like “Enter Sandman” does.