Friday, January 25, 2013

Plans For D-Rob After His Arbitration Years

 (He should probably get his own private bathroom too... )

After the quick burst of 1-year agreements with their arbitration-eligible players last week, the Yankees now have all but 1 of their key core roster members under contract for 2013.  The lone remaining unsigned guy is David Robertson, and both he and the Yankees submitted their arbitration numbers for a possible hearing next month.  D-Rob is in his second year of arbitration eligibility and one way or another he stands to get a big raise from the $1.6 mil he made in 2012.  Robertson submitted $3.55 million as his desired figure while the Yankees submitted $2.85 mil, which is right in line with MLBTR's prediction of $2.8 mil.  They can still work out a new deal before taking it to arbitration, but what about after his arbitration years are up?  What then?  The Yankees will have some serious decisions to make on the future of their bullpen after this season, and D-Rob figures to play prominently in those decisions.

** UPDATE 11:37 AM- Jon Heyman reporting that the Yanks and D-Rob have agreed to a 1-year/$3.1 million deal for 2013.  That locks him in for this season, but everything after the jump is still relevant. **

D-Rob has 5 years of Major League service under his belt already.  He's been very good for 2 of them and elite for the last 2.  He's still just 27 years old and doesn't turn 28 until April.  By the time his arbitration years are up he'll be 29, still in the prime of his career and presumably a very hot commodity on the free agent market if he stays healthy and continues to pitch like he has.  He's made excellent strides in improving his command and cutting down on his walks, he's learned to put some cut action on his fastball from working with Mo, and save for his 15-day DL stint for an oblique injury last year he's proven to be very durable.

The point I'm trying to make is that D-Rob has future closer written all over him.  He has for a few years now.  He got a brief audition for the job last year after Mo went down with his ACL tear, and was yanked in favor of Rafael Soriano a little too quickly IMO after a blown save.  Soriano has moved onto Washington for this season, and Mo is more than likely using 2013 as a take 2 on his final year before finally retiring.  D-Rob is going to re-assume the setup role in front of Mo this season, and the path is perfectly laid out for him to take the closer spot again in 2014.

As someone who already stands to make himself a lot more money in 2013, D-Rob could be in a good position to earn an even bigger bump in pay in his final arbitration year in 2014 if he ends up taking over the closer role, a bump and a promotion that could set his earning potential on the open market after 2014 even higher.  With the Yankees already planning to cut payroll below the luxury tax threshold in 2014 and implying that that cut would not just be a 1-year thing, their chances of paying market value for D-Rob have to be less than what they would be under normal spending circumstances.  If they do want to keep Robertson around, and I don't see why they wouldn't considering he's the best homegrown player they've developed in the last 5 years, they might have to consider the dreaded "E" word now.

I talked about my belief that the Yankees should be looking to extend both Joe and Robinson Cano recently, and that same logic can be applied to D-Rob.  Mike Axisa talked about this idea at length on Monday, and kicked around some rough figures that he thought would be fair for both sides and give the Yankees flexibility to make other moves.  I think Mike's 3-year/$15 million proposal with an option or 2 is a great starting point for the extension discussion with D-Rob and a great way for the Yankees to start preparing for life after Mo.  Whether it gets handed down by the arbitrator or agreed upon by the Yanks and Robertson, he's going to make somewhere around $3 million this season, with that figure likely to rise to around 5 in 2014 if he has another good year and is in line to assume the closer role.  After a good year in that spot, there will be teams who will double his salary in free agency, and the new cost-conscious Yankee approach might not get involved in those talks.

For all we know, the Yankees already have something in mind for D-Rob, and with the way they've handled their free agent business this offseason that something could be as simple as letting him walk.  I don't think that's going to happen if he continues to pitch at a high level, and I don't think it would be a wise move.  But as with Cano, it would be to the Yankees' benefit to get ahead of this upcoming scenario and at least entertain the idea of working out an extension with D-Rob now.  He's the team's best relief pitcher, arguably one of the best in baseball, and the best in-house option to take over the throne once Mo hangs 'em up.  If the Yanks want to keep him in the fold beyond 2014, they owe it to themselves to start thinking about offering him an extension.

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