The Yankees have made a qualifying offer to reliever David Robertson, but evidently that hasn't stopped six teams from expressing an interest and calling regarding his services. Normally one would expect a qualifying offer to absolutely torpedo the market for a reliever - the only teams that should be signing high profile relievers are playoff contenders, and the only teams that have their first round pick protected are the ten worst teams from the past year. As Brandon McCarthy was traded mid-season last year, he was not eligible for the qualifying offer, so all it takes is money. Are either of them worth it for the White Sox?
James has already registered an opinion on the prospect of signing David Robertson. Before I engage in weighing the pros and cons of David Robertson, let me be clear that I really, really, really don't like the idea of signing relief pitchers for any significant value.
That said, here are the arguments for trying to sign David Robertson:
1. The bullpen is an area of need. White Sox relievers finished last year with an ERA of 4.38, good for 28th in the majors. Their K-BB% was REALLY ugly, sitting at 30th in the league by an absolute mile. At 6.9%, the White Sox were 2.9% behind the 29th place team, Detroit (the Yankees, Robertson's former and probably future club were first at 17.9%). Part of this is the reflection of a deliberate strategy - grounders are cheaper money-wise than strikeouts, so the White Sox grabbed a ton of cheap groundball pitchers hoping to get a budget bullpen and maybe flip some of them at the deadline.
To an extent the strategy worked - the White Sox relief core lead the majors in GB% at 52.1 and were Top 10 in home runs allowed - but on the whole it was a bad, ineffective part of the team, and most of them were too hurt or ineffective to trade.
2. Unlike other teams that are sniffing around top flight relievers, the White Sox won't have to surrender a first round pick.
3. David Robertson is really good. Okay, maybe this should be Point #1, but it's true. He's struck out 12 per 9 for his career, and has held a K/BB above 4.00 for the past three years. His signature pitch is his excellent curveball - last year he got swings on 49.5% of them, and 47.5% of those were swings and misses. There were no changes in his fastball velocity from 2013 to 2014, and he has pitched 60+ innings for five years in a row. Robertson is a little dinger-prone, but seriously, nobody's perfect.
The arguments against are basically:
1. Robertson is a relief pitcher. Why are you spending big money on a guy who is throwing, at most, 70 innings a year? This is a team that struggled mightily filling the spots of 4th and 5th starter, who should throw 150+ innings a year, after all.
2. He's going to be expensive. The Yankees have the inside track - not just because they're the Yankees, but also because they don't have to surrender any pick at all.
3. I mean, Robertson is a relief pitcher. They are so volatile - although Robertson not nearly as much as most - and you could try to find a number of cheaper options for the same price and net more quality innings at the end of the day.
4. You're going to pay a premium for the fact that he is a True Closer. I am of the school of thought that - with rare exceptions - you can make anybody who is good enough get outs a Closer. The fact that Robertson has made the leap from Ace Setup Man to Closer means he will cost more, though, and I'd rather pay for things that are real than ceremonial.
When all is said and done, Robertson will probably be on the Yankees. But man...replacing Ronald Belisario's 60+ innings with Robertson alone would be a big improvement for the team as a whole. By that same token, it would have been really cool to replace Gordon Beckham with Robinson Cano, but there's that whole price factor to consider...
Brandon McCarthy is familiar even to White Sox fans who only pay attention to the White Sox. It seems that when he is allowed to throw the pitch mix that he wants and he's healthy, he's a solid #2-3 starter. McCarthy has always had very good control - seriously, check out his minor league numbers, those K:BB ratios were really fun - and he hasn't had a BB/9 above 2.0 since 2009.
On the other hand, McCarthy is brittle and may be homer prone. But, the White Sox can reasonably say that their training staff and track record of keeping pitchers healthy is strong - and, the line drive off McCarthy's head has to be considered more of a freak accident than something to worry about moving forward. Most of his ineffectiveness seems to be limited to the Failure Vortex which was the Kirk Gibson / Kevin Towers Diamondbacks Regime.
Really, the more I think about it, the more I talk myself into thinking he's a perfect fit. After Sale and Quintana, the rotation is currently a question mark with high upside and high risk (Carlos Rodon) or Back End Filler Dudes (John Danks and Hector Noesi). If the White Sox hope to compete next year, they will need a quality third and reliable fourth option. McCarthy fits the bill, doesn't cost a draft pick, and won't cost nearly what the elite guys will. Keith Law said he'd be willing to pay $14-15 million for 2-3 years for McCarthy. I would be fine with the White Sox throwing an extra couple million on that. He turns 32 next July so I suppose there have been crazier four year deals, but the White Sox rarely go that long on a pitcher and are really regretting having done so with John Danks.
In a way, signing a starter that you can slot in, actually use, and who is effective enough to pitch past the 5th inning helps your bullpen as well. A guy like Scott Carroll can just shift into the bullpen (where he was much more effective) and be the long reliever, or wrap up the last two innings of low leverage games instead of getting stretched beyond his abilities in the rotation. And, a guy like McCarthy is less likely to get annihilated and need to get pulled in the 3rd or 4th inning than Danks or Noesi are.
As a cherry on top, McCarthy is right-handed, seems like a really cool guy, and was even a rather key member of the 2005 White Sox to boot. This is bad - now I'm getting my hopes up.
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