Now that the All-Star break is over, that means the 2013 season is also in it’s final half. However, for one player in particular, only two to three months of their MLB career remains and once he’s gone, it’s going to take quite the pitcher to replace him.
Yes folks, I am talking about the greatest closer of all time, the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera.
After the season ends, not only the Yankees, but Major League Baseball in general, will be saying goodbye to a legend of the game. Earlier this season, Rivera, 43, announced that 2013 would be his final year, which in some regards him coming back this season after tearing his ACL last year was a surprise. However, once he’s gone, it leaves some huge shoes to fill in the Yankee bullpen. Do the Bronx Bombers have any internal options or will they need to seek some outside help?
Well, if they want to work from the inside, the first and most obvious choice is current set-up man David Robertson. In 2012, the Yankees experimented with Robertson in the closer’s role once Rivera was out for the season, only to soon find the righty on the disabled list. In that short stretch of time as a closer, Robertson acquired one save and blew one save before being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Overall, Robertson was effective as a set-up man last year with 30 holds and had an ERA of 2.67.
Looking into this season, Robertson has been one of the best relievers in manager Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, well of course next to Rivera. Robertson is sitting on a 2.11 ERA in 2013 with four wins, one loss, 22 holds and one blown save. Of course, I don’t really think a small amount of blown saves in the past two years are really going affect his chances at becoming the closer in New York next year.
If Robertson isn’t the guy for the job, another interesting choice for the Yankees could be rookie Preston Claiborne. This season, Claiborne made his major league debut on May 5 and has done incredibly well in relief, hosting a 2.43 ERA with one loss and two holds. Now clearly Girardi hasn’t used Claiborne in a closer’s role before as the 25 year-old has seen work as a middle reliever, but he’s an option to play around with next season.
The biggest thing Claiborne could have going for him is if Robertson does become the closer, perhaps he’s placed in that set-up role to garner experience. If the Yankees feel a set-up man role is necessary after 2013, then by all means Claiborne could be in the running come 2014′s Spring Training.
Externally, the Yanks don’t have many options. On the market currently, the Philadelphia Phillies have been trying to shop closer Jonathan Papelbon, but in all honesty, I don’t see the Yankees swooping in on a deal for him. Beyond Papelbon, the Yankees aren’t really in the market for a closer until after the season and by then, assuming the traded relievers aren’t just rentals, the market is going to be dry.
After the season, there will be a few targets the Yankees could try and pursue such as Grant Balfour, Ryan Madson and Fernando Rodney. However, I don’t see the team spending money on a closer, especially when there are internal options. Also, with general manager Brian Cashman wanting to avoid getting tackled by the luxury tax, signing a top-notch reliever, not even a closer, seems pretty futile at this point.
Personally, I’d have to say Robertson wins the job as of now. He’s had the most experience in the bullpen with the team aside from Boone Logan and Rivera, so it’s almost a perfect fit. Whatever the Yankees do in the off-season months has obviously yet to come, but don’t be surprised if Robertson has already won the job.