This weekend, MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes surprised folks when he predicted, among many other signings, that the Chicago Cubs would land New York Yankees closer David Robertson this offseason. Not only is Robertson not someone who has specifically been on the Cubs’ radar in public reports, he wouldn’t seem to be a fit for the Cubs’ needs and available dollars at this time.
But a report out of the New York Daily News today links the Cubs to Robertson as an “intriguing possibility” for the free agent, assuming he declines the qualifying offer he’s expected to receive from the Yankees. The connection, you’ll note, sounds more like speculation than anything else. Then again, the author, Mark Feinsand, reports that Robertson is speaking with at least six teams, which I suppose means it’s possible that he’s implying the Cubs are one of those six teams without explicitly saying so.
As I said yesterday with respect to Robertson, the dude is good. In his last four years, he’s posted ERA/FIP/xFIP lines of 1.08/1.84/2.46, 2.67/2.48/2.67, 2.04/2.61/2.60, and 3.08/2.68/2.13, each with an innings total over 60. His strikeout rate over that period is 34.0% and his walk rate is 9.1%.
Yes, you’d want this guy on your team, whether as a closer or yet another power arm to put in the pen behind incumbent – and highly-successful – closer Hector Rondon.
But, the crux of the question as far as the Cubs are concerned is whether the $10+ million annually over four years that Robertson is going to command is the best use of the team’s resources. This was the same question we asked when discussing lefty Andrew Miller.
No, you can never be overly confident in a bullpen with so much youth, but, right now, the Cubs are looking pretty good there. If the Cubs were determined to do everything possible to improve the team for 2015, cost-be-damned? Sure. You go for Robertson. But I don’t think we’re going to see that. Instead, I think we’re going to see payroll commitments gradually rising over the next four years, with this offseason’s biggest outlays reserved for starting pitching (an impact arm and a second tier arm) and maybe one positional guy (Russell Martin? an outfielder?).
The only way I could realistically see the Cubs even considering Robertson is if he goes unsigned for a while, perhaps dragged down by draft pick compensation, and has to settle late for less than expected. In that situation, perhaps the Cubs have already signed a qualified free agent or two, meaning that the draft pick they would give up to sign Robertson would be relatively insignificant (third/fourth rounder) compared to the first rounder other teams might have to give up. Maybe then the math works out. But I doubt it.
In any case, it’s certainly interesting to see a report out of New York tying Robertson explicitly to the Cubs. Maybe that’s just the MLBTR prediction tail wagging the dog (the MLBTR prediction got folks talking, people somewhere said, “Well, yeah, the Cubs do have money to spend and MADDON! Yeah, they might go all out on pitching of all kinds!”). You also have to wonder whether the Cubs are suddenly the hot team off of which to try and leverage other, legitimate bidders. Since “everyone knows” they’re going to be spending money, sending out a Cubs-related rumor might be a way to pressure another suitor to come more aggressively to the table on your client.
Until we get some kind of signal that the Cubs are absolutely going to add a big-time arm in the pen, however, I’m going to assume this is not a serious rumor to follow. With a glut of back-end starter options and an abundance of young power arms in the pen already, the Cubs have the bones for a pen that could not only be excellent, but could also weather the early-season struggles and/or injuries of some of those young power arms.
Let me put it this way. The Cubs plan to go with a more traditional seven-man pen next year, and their bullpen options already look like this:
Jacob Turner (?)
Felix Doubront (?)
Dan Straily (?)
Tsuyoshi Wada (?)
That’s 15 guys. I could probably have thrown a few other starters in the mix, too, like Edwin Jackson or Dallas Beeler or Eric Jokisch. No, having a ton of options, alone, isn’t the end-all-be-all. You have to have many, many impact arms. The Cubs might have many, many impact arms, but it’s not quite a guarantee.
Still, I like the chances of putting together a great seven-man pen from that group over the course of a season. Further, if it’s $10 to $13 million for Robertson or the Cubs can take a real swing at, for example, Russell Martin for just a little more? I’ve got to believe that Martin would have the greater impact on the Cubs’ ability to win over the next two, three, four years. That’s just one example of the limitations of resources, but I think it drives home the point about this Cubs team as currently constructed (and given current finances).