Reliever David Robertson is seeking a mega deal. On Monday he already passed up the chance to have the largest yearly salary of any closer in baseball history when he turned down the qualifying offer extended to him by the New York Yankees.
Yes, the $15.3 million qualifying offer would have earned Robertson more in a single season than the greatest closer in MLB history, Mariano Rivera, was ever paid by the Yankees. Seems crazy, right?
Considering Robertson didn’t have the best year in 2014, his stats having been eclipsed by rookie reliever Dellin Betances, he was the one player I predicted to be the most likely to accept his qualifying offer.
He did not accept and now according to ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchland, Robertson is said to be seeking the largest contract ever given to a reliever. As Marchland put it on Twitter, he is seeking “Papelbon money.”
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) November 12, 2014
The Philadelphia Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon a four-year $50 million deal in 2011. The contracted inlcuded an option that if vested could give Papelbon another year and a total of $63 million.
If his options vests in 2015 (and it should being that he only has to finish 15 games during the season), Papelbon’s contract would be the highest ever given to a reliever.
While the contract provides Papelbon with job safety his contract still only comes out to $12.3 million per season.
Rivera, MLB’s all-time saves leader, made as much as $15 million a season four different times while with the Yankees. However, with Rivera being the best of the best his job was never really in jeopardy, even though he did spend much of 2012 on the disabled list.
Robertson is a good closer and it would be unfair to compare anyone to Rivera so let’s compare him to Papelbon. During each of the two relievers first six seasons (Papelbon signed his current contract after his sixth season) both pitchers made a similar number of appearances.
Papelbon had already been a four time All-Star and had a career (up until that point) ERA of 2.22 and had pitched more innings and finished more games.
To be fair, being the set-up man behind Rivera there is no way that Robertson could have finished as many games but with the number of IP being close, Robertson has made only one All-Star appearance in his career and posted an ERA of 2.76.
In 2014 Robertson finished 55 games, saved 39 games in 44 opportunities and finished the year 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA. Those are respectable numbers. However, his numbers (except in saves) were eclipsed by the rookie Dellin Betances who was 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA as the set-up man to Robertson. Betances also finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting for 2014.
In my opinion Robertson is as good as they come but not as good as Rivera or Papelbon and if Betances continues at the level of play he showed he was capable of in 2014, he’d likely end up with better numbers than Robertson.
It appears that Robertson, who will be 30 at the start of next season, may have missed the mark on not accepting his $15.3 million for 2015.
Even if Robertson’s agent, Scott Leventhal, can convince a team to pay Robertson “Papelbon money” it’s unlikely he will end up playing for the Yankees again. Marchland writes,
“Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is not a big believer in paying relievers not named Mariano Rivera such large amounts on a multiyear deal.”
Whether or not the Yankees believe that Betances, 26, is ready to be a closer, they could pair him as a set-up man with a number of free-agent closers such as Andrew Miller or Francisco Rodriguez in order to not have to pay “Papelbon money” to Robertson.
Although, as far as anyone knows the Yankees are still interested in signing Robertson to a multi-year deal but the likely hood of that deal being as large as Papelbon’s is extremely unlikely.