Examining free agent alternatives for closer

In my most recent piece analyzing the aftermath the Andrew Miller signing, I highlighted the importance of acquiring a closer if David Robertson latches on elsewhere:

Making Betances or Miller the closer would deplete their utility, that much is clear. Additionally, it would allow guys like Shawn Kelley, Justin Wilson, and Esmil Rogers more high-leverage innings. It could also thrust a prospect like Jacob Lindgren or Danny Burawa into the fold. All of these pitchers are capable, but a downgrade from having taking Miller or Betances out of a more flexible role. Thus, I’d like the Yankees to sign a closer in the event that Robertson departs.

In the same post, I teased out a few names — Rafael Soriano, Jason Grilli, and Francisco Rodriguez — but let’s take a look at a few target relievers on the open market:

2015 Steamer Projection

Name ERA K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
David Robertson 2.59 10.93 2.64 2.57 1.0
Jason Grilli 2.86 9.77 2.76 3.42 0.6
Luke Gregerson 3.40 7.71 2.27 3.50 0.4
Sergio Romo 3.30 8.11 2.08 3.62 0.3
Francisco Rodriguez 3.41 8.77 2.68 3.47 0.3
Casey Janssen 3.93 6.75 2.01 4.13 0.2
Rafael Soriano 3.54 7.99 2.58 3.88 0.0

Judging by the projections, the entire group is certainly capable of handling a closer role. Here’s my order of preference, taking into consideration talent and potential contract:

  1. David Robertson — I don’t think I need to explain myself here.
  2. Jason Grilli — His age (38) is a bit of a concern, but I like that his fastball velocity has remained pretty steady the past three seasons (93 MPH). His projection is the most optimistic of the non-Robertson division, and I also think that he can be had on a one-year contract given his age.
  3. Sergio Romo — Romo has a nasty slider and doesn’t walk guys, which are two things that allowed him to dominate as the Giants closer in 2013. He took a step back in 2014, allowing far too many homers, which cost him the 9th inning job. It’s worth noting, though, that his second half (1.80 ERA) was far better than his first half (4.74 ERA). Romo is behind Grilli only because I think Romo can probably command a two-year contract.
  4. Luke Gregerson — He’s been consistently good since he debuted with the Padres in 2009. One ding is that he’s never been a full-time closer, although that’s somewhat unfair because it’s out of his control. I’d be willing to give him a chance with the Yankees in that role should Robertson go, but he might require a two or three-year agreement.
  5. Rafael Soriano — Soriano’s 2014 was the inverse of Romo’s. He was awesome in the first half (0.97 ERA) and bad for the finish (6.48 ERA). Yet, for what it’s worth, we know that he’s mentally capable to close for the Yankees after his 2012 performance. I think there’s something left in the tank here, as his average fastball velocity has been pretty steady the past couple of seasons. I highly doubt he can get more than a one-year contract, too.
  6. Francisco Rodriguez — K-Rod allowed an exorbitant amount of home runs in 2014 (1.85/9 IP), and that mark has climbed each of the past three seasons. Regression should lower that total in 2015, but at the same time, his .216 BABIP and 93% strand rate probably won’t carry over to 2015, either.
  7. Casey Janssen — He stopped striking out batters and began allowing more fly balls in 2014. In turn, his home runs allowed and ERA spiked. After posting three straight sub-3 ERA seasons, he neared 4 in 2014 (3.94), and Steamer is down on him despite all of the good work from 2011 to 2013.
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