Yesterday, as strange as I initially found the rumors, I couldn’t not write about David Robertson and the Chicago Cubs. Again. Again again. That’s because, for the fourth time in three days, there was a report connecting the Cubs to the Yankees’ free agent closer.
Now, for the fifth time in four days, there’s a report connecting Robertson to the Cubs (it’s actually from Tuesday night, but I didn’t catch it until just now – so it was five independent reports in three days!). I could be totally cynical and say that this many reports in such a short period of time means that there’s an agent out there trying to apply pressure to someone (the Yankees?), but, in the interests of discussing the topic, I’m throwing my hands up at this point and just rolling with it.
Joel Sherman breaks down the market for free agent closers of late (it’s kind of ugly, given the volatility in their performance), and spoke to an anonymous executive who threw out one team to watch on Robertson: the Cubs.
Part of the executive’s rationale is something I’ve said over the course of the numerous Robertson rumors this week: because the Cubs have a protected first round pick, and because they might sign another qualified free agent or two, the relative “cost” of signing Robertson (who received a qualifying offer) could be less for the Cubs than for just about any other team. At that point, I’ll absolutely concede: when you can get an asset for less than any other team in baseball, it’s worth considering, even if it’s an imperfect fit.
And, is the fit imperfect? Well, I still don’t love the idea of the Cubs spending $10+ million per year on a back-end reliever, but consider that the Cubs’ bullpen is a Hector Rondon regression, a Pedro Strop wildness fit, and a Neil Ramirez injury away from being a disaster. Even if all three stay healthy and effective, it’s not like Robertson couldn’t still be a huge benefit back there.
I’ve posted it before, and I’ll do it again just for a frame of reference. Here’s what the Cubs are currently working with in the pen:
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.
Because of the way bullpens sometimes just “happen,” you’d like to think the Cubs could easily get seven or eight quality arms out of that huge group, even if there were some injuries and/or struggles. But, then again, given the increasing importance of bullpens in baseball, and the increasing realization that high-leverage innings are disproportionately valuable, maybe adding another big-time arm is more important than we realized when these Robertson rumors started.
Which was just four days ago, by the way. It’s not like we’ve had a ton of time to adjust.
Unless the Cubs are absolutely committed to going above the $110ish million in payroll I estimated earlier today, I still think the right approach with Robertson is to wait him out and see how his market develops. If he’s looking for a job late in the offseason because the market simply isn’t there, and would cost the Cubs only a third or fourth rounder at that point (the value of which is very, very low when compared to a free agent), I can see some sense in a two-year, $20 million, or three-year, $24 million deal. Maybe a touch more. I still think he ultimately does better than that.
It’s also still possible that Robertson decides not to risk a market collapse, and accepts the one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Yankees. He’s got until Monday to decide, and that decision has suddenly become much more interesting to follow.