It had been a while since the Yankees won a ball game, but the Houston Astros are that bad and that accommodating. The Yankees held on for a 3-2 victory Friday night when David Robertson picked up his third save of the season.
Robertson is the presumptive closer for 2014, the first season without Mariano Rivera. But I'm not convinced he's the man for the job. Robertson has the mental make up, however I don't believe he has the physical requirements for the job. He is not at his best when he has to pitch back to back games or more than one inning, and the closer's role needs that ability.
D-Rob is a very good pitcher and an even better person, he and his wife Erin have done fantastic work through their High Socks for Hope foundation, but he should remain in the 8th inning set up role. So if not Robertson, than who?
Shawn Kelley has never had a Major League save, but he was instrumental in the Yankees bullpen this season. He entered Saturday's play with a 12K per 9 inning ratio this season, a career best. Like most of the Yankees this year, he too had some physical issues, but appears to have the phyiscal and mental make up to be a closer.
There is no one else in the Yankees organization right now that should be saddled with the chore of replacing the greatest closer of all time.
Outside the organization
The best closer among possible free agents, Joe Nathan, will certainly have his $9MM option picked up by the Texas Rangers prior to next season. Fernando Rodney saved 84 games in 94 opportunities over the last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Rays and will seek more years and money than the Yankees will be willing to offer.
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara took over the full-time closer job for the Boston Red Sox after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were injured and/or ineffective. Uehara spent time as closer with the Baltimore Orioles three years ago and is 21-24 for Boston this season in save chances. But Uehara is 38-years old and should only be signed as a set up man/insurance.
The Oakland A's Grant Balfour is an interesting case. He has recorded 62 saves in 67 chances over the last two seasons with the Oakland A's. The man from down under will be 37 when the 2014 season begins and will looking for his last good paying contract. He's likely to get one, though I can't imagine any team guaranteeing more than two years.
There are also a bunch of closer retreads - Kyle Farnsworth, Kevin Gregg, LaTroy Hawkins, etc. No need to sign any of them.
The Yankees could also explore trade options, though some players won't be available until the season is well underway. One of the names that comes to mind is the last player that replaced Mariano Rivera. Rafael Soriano stepped in when Rivera tore up his knee in 2012 and saved 42 out of 46 chances. He opted out of his contract and signed a 3-year, $32MM deal with the Washington Nationals, though the payout structure guaranteed $7MM this season and $11MM next year. The final $14MM of the contract kicks in if Soriano finishes 120 games in 2013-2014 combined.
The Nats were a monumental failure in 2013, but Soriano was 42 for 48. Washington could be looking to dump some salary this off-season, though $11 for one year is a bargain. It's worth an inquiry at the very least.
Chris Perez is still under control by Cleveland, but the Indians just dropped him from the closer role due to recent ineffectiveness. Perez has averaged 30 saves over the last four years for Cleveland and is still just 28 years old. But is his arm trustworthy and can he handle New York? He lashed out the Indians' fans earlier this season for not coming out to games.
Seeing how the Yankees dealt with things this year, Robertson, Kelley, and other "insiders" will get the first chance to close next season. Should they falter, then Cashman will look elsewhere.
Anyone know how hard Mariano Rivera Jr. throws?