On Friday, the Yankees made their first big free agent splash of the 2014-2015 offseason, inking Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36M contract. I already profiled Miller when I wrote him up as an offseason target, so you can read that if you want to know more about the type of player he is. Instead, I’ll examine the ramifications of the signing.
With Miller in the fold, perhaps the greatest question is the likelihood of David Robertson returning.
Sources: If Robertson’s asking price drops, the Yankees ready to talk. If not, they’ll move on with the bullpen group they have.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 5, 2014
It’s hard to imagine Robertson settling for anything less than what Miller agreed to. We already know that Robertson was asking for “Papelbon money”, alluding to the four-year, $50M pact the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to. If that’s still the case, I’d guess that the Yankees are more comfortable in the $40-45M range. Otherwise, as Olney tweeted, they’ll go with what they have now and take the supplemental draft pick from Robertson’s departure.
Without Robertson, the closer role is unclear. It’s not as simple as sliding Dellin Betances into that slot. The same goes for Miller. Those two are far more valuable not being locked into a particular inning — they’re at their best in high-leverage situations, whether that’s as early as the sixth or as late as the ninth inning. Would closer-by-committee work? Easier said than done. In theory, it would be ideal, but it’s difficult to speak to the effect of the uncertainty.
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.
The alternatives to Robertson aren’t very exciting, but would suffice in a 9th inning role. A few free agents of note: Rafael Soriano, Jason Grilli, and Francisco Rodriguez all have closing experience. Those three should be pretty affordable, and can likely be had on a one-year agreement. Nowhere near as good as Robertson, of course, but one of them would allow Miller and Betances to be at their best.
I still want Robertson back, but maybe skimping on a closer will allow an alternative move at a more pressing need — kind of like how acquiring Didi Gregorius saves millions at shortstop compared to, for example, re-signing Stephen Drew. If I had to choose between Robertson or Miller, I’d take D-Rob. That’s partly based on Robertson being homegrown, but also because it seems like Lindgren will be a southpaw that can get lefties and righties out just like Miller (and cheaper to boot). That ship has now sailed, and so might have the chances of Robertson returning.