Tampa Bay Rays free agent target: David Robertson
By Austin Reimann
A World Series Champion and an all-star with 137 career saves may be the key to the Tampa Bay Rays 2019 season. Signing David Robertson might be difficult, but if they can pull it off, the Rays pen would be as formidable as it ever has been.
David Robertson has been as good as it gets out of the bullpen for 11 seasons. He broke into the bigs with the Yankees in 2008 and has been a pivotal reliever in the Bronx ever since. He spent parts of three seasons on the south side of Chicago in a White Sox uniform but eventually returned home to the concrete jungle. Now, the Tampa Bay Rays should have their eyes set on luring Robertson to the sun soaked gulf coast of Florida to lead their young, talented, and electric pen to the playoffs.
Convincing the self represented 33-year-old to pack up and come south will be a tall task no doubt as he has publicly claimed that he wants to remain in the Northeast. But, the Rays have the money to spend and the exciting young core to possibly convince the veteran Robertson to make Tampa his new home.
mlbtraderumors.com projected David Robertson to get a lucrative 3 year 33 million dollar deal this offseason but to this point a deal similar to that hasn’t materialized. Boston has expressed interest but is reluctant to add a third year. The Yankees are also interested in bringing back Robertson but is also in talks with Britton and Ottavino. The Angels have also been mentioned as a possible option but they are on the opposite coast and may be on the outside looking in.
Recently it has been reported by Jon Morosi that the righty would like the opportunity to close which could give the Rays an edge in discussions if they so happened to engage in them. The Rays traded away closer Alex Colome in May and employed a closer-by-committee system for the remainder of the season.
Looking ahead to 2019, flamethrower Jose Alvarado may be given the chance to close. But in a season where the Rays are expected to compete, it would work to their advantage to have a more experienced reliever with over 130 career saves closing out games. When the Rays were at their best they always had a seasoned veteran closing out games. Rafael Soriano in 2010 and Fernando Rodney in 2012 and 2013.
David Robertson could serve that role for the Rays in 2019. This could intrigue him and possibly pull him away from his native northeast. The Rays were rumored to offer up to 12 million to slugger Nelson Cruz. The question is, would they do the same or similar for Robertson? I hope so.
Per Fangraphs value in dollars per 1 WAR, Robertson’s 1.5 fWAR was worth roughly 12.3M. This is right in line with their offer to Cruz. In 2017, his 1.9 fWAR was worth nearly 15M (14.9). He earned 13M last year and 12M the year prior.
They have shown a willingness to spend on pitching already, guaranteeing Charlie Morton 30M over the next two years. Could Robertson be the next signing? Like the Red Sox, I don’t see the Rays offering a 3rd year unless it is a team option.
But why would the Tampa Bay Rays hypothetically offer David Robertson a deal north of 20M over 2 years? Because he can flat-out pitch. Because he has recorded at least 60 innings pitched every season since 2010. Because he has played in 30 playoff games, the rest of the Rays roster has played in 19 October games…combined. Like Morton and Pham, Robertson would add a veteran presence in the pen and clubhouse.
Lets just revisit my first point, the fact that he can flat-out pitch. Take a look at his stats from the past two seasons.
2017: 68.1 IP // 98K // 1.84 ERA // 2.57 FIP // 42 ERA- // 12.91 K/9 //1.9 fWAR
2018: 69.2 IP // 91K // 3.23 ERA // 2.97 FIP // 75 ERA- // 11.76 K/9 // 1.5 fWAR
Yes, his 2018 numbers are down from his 2017 stats, but keep in mind that the 42 ERA- he posted in 2017 was a career best. 2017 was a career year for Robertson. In terms of WAR, he only had one season in which he was more dominant, 2011.
In terms of opponents average, 2018 was the best year of his career facing right-handed hitters (.185) and the second best year of his career against left handers (.172). Jose Alvarado held right handers to a stifling .163 opponents average while holding left handers to a .213 average.
His 1.5 fWAR would have ranked second in the Rays pen, only behind Jose Alvarado. While their K/9 rates were nearly identical, Robertson did post a better BB/9 rate (3.36 vs 4.08). Only Alvarado and Stanek had a better ERA- in 2018.
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Fangraphs’ Steamer projects Robertson to produce 1.2 fWAR which would be equivalent to roughly 10M in value. But surely he would provide the Rays with much more than that. The intangibles alone make him a must sign by the Rays if he is willing to make the move down south.
I don’t know if David Robertson is on the Rays radar, but if he isn’t he needs to be. Time to sign Robertson and let him be the next Soriano and Rodney for a Rays playoff team.