The Red Sox are fresh off a World Series win that was surprisingly keyed by the bullpen (with a little help from rotation members). Just as we all predicted, right? This season wasn’t exactly filled with ringing endorsements for that bullpen. I know I wasn’t 100 percent confident when Dave Dombrowski failed to make a move for a reliever prior to the trade deadline. And it is worth noting that 18 of the 63 innings pitched by the bullpen this postseason came from regular-season starters. Still though, one must give credit where credit is due. And credit is certainly due in this case.
Going into the offseason, Boston’s bullpen is even more of a question mark than it was before. Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel are both officially free agents, as is all-around postseason stud Nathan Eovaldi. I think there’s a general consensus in Boston that returns for Kelly and Eovaldi would be welcome, while Kimbrel draws more of a mixed reaction. One thing we should all get on board with is Dombrowski taking a long look at Yankees reliever David Robertson.
Early reports indicate that Robertson will be a highly sought after free agent as most contenders always seem to have bolstering the bullpen on the offseason to-do list and he’s one of the top free agent relievers on the market. That’s great news for Sox fans since Dombrowski has always done what needs to be done to get the guy he wants, whether it be in free agency or via trade. (See Chris Sale, Kimbrel, JD Martinez and David Price). You have to hope Dombrowski is also at the point in his Red Sox tenure where he’s starting to enjoy taking things from the Yankees. Why not add Robertson to the list?
At 33 going on 34, Robertson would likely be the oldest member of the Red Sox bullpen, but age doesn’t concern me too much in regards to relievers, especially ones as good as him. Robertson has pitched at least 60 innings in each of the last eight seasons and it feels like most teams would give him a look at closer before anything else. Without knowing where Kimbrel will end up, it’s hard to say where the Red Sox would put him, but you know Alex Cora and staff will find a way to use Robertson regardless.
His stuff still looks pretty nasty after eleven years in the bigs and that’s what’s really important for relief pitchers. He relied almost exclusively on a slider, curveball and cutter last year. Thrown 582 times, Robertson’s curveball had a whiff percentage of 22.85 percent, per Brooks Baseball. He struck out 32% of the batters he faced, down from 37% in 2017, but still 17th-best in the league among relievers. It’s clear that his stuff is still effective. With a career-high 69 2⁄3 innings pitched, Robertson had an ERA+ of 136 and a batting average against of .179 with a WHIP of 1.03 in 2018. Among relievers with at least 60 IP, Robertson was also 12th in the league in BABIP at .245.
On top of all that, the righty has experience as a closer, which will be crucial even if Kimbrel does end up back in Boston. The way he pitched this postseason, it’ll be good to have a second option hanging around just in case. From 2014 to 2016, Robertson finished 156 of the 185 games he appeared in between the Chicago White Sox and New York. Upon his return to the Yankees in 2017, he has finished just 17 of 99 appearances.
While I want the Red Sox to target him this offseason, it seems likely that he re-signs with the Yankees if there’s mutual interest. Robertson elected not to use an agent this offseason and will be representing himself, which is … interesting to say the least. He told MLB Trade Rumors that he feels he no longer needs a middle man in this process and thought not using an agent was the best move for him and his family. Having spent nine of his 11 seasons in the Yankees organization, you’d have to think he’s familiar with management there at this point. Maybe he decided not to use an agent because he knows where he wants to be and won’t be exploring many options. If he wants to stay in New York, why would he need an agent to help him do that?
Still, I hope the Red Sox give him a call, and you know Dombrowski probably will — despite finally putting his bullpen demons behind him this year. Robertson signed a four-year, $46 million contract with the White Sox in 2014, but he was 29 and had an agent then. That was also viewed as a very favorable deal at the time as only six relievers in MLB history have received more guaranteed money, according to CBS Sports. MLB Trade Rumors has him signing a three-year, $33 million contract this time around. Relatively speaking, that’s a small price to pay for one of the best free agent relievers on the market this year. And it’s not like Dombrowski is known for being cheap. Quite the opposite really.
We know the offense will remain mostly intact, as will the rotation, so here we are again, hoping and praying the bullpen can do enough to get this team where it wants to be. David Robertson seems to be someone who might help out with that.