D-Rob goes to the Phillies. What’s next for the bullpen?

It wasn’t all that big of a surprise, but on Thursday it was reported that reliever David Robertson would leave the Yankees once again to sign a two-year contract (with a team option for a third year) with the Philadelphia Phillies.

I’ll miss D-Rob. A lot. As the offseason went on, it seemed like this was inevitable, though. Particularly when you look at the terms for which he signed coupled with how quickly the Yankees wrapped things up with Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia (and JA Happ, if you consider that quick), the fact that D-Rob hadn’t signed yet and ultimately didn’t sign a megadeal with Philly indicates that at least one side of the Yankees or Robertson didn’t want him back in pinstripes. I suppose the postseason shares story is a bigger deal than I thought if that’s the primary reason for the separation. If he’s not a Yankee, I’m just happy he didn’t sign with the Red Sox or, to a much much lesser extent, the Mets.

So that’s the D-Rob part of the story, but what do the Yankees do now?

After re-signing CC, Brian Cashman had said to friend-of-the-program Jack Curry, among other reporters, that he had the following things on his checklist for the Yankees’ offseason:

  1. Two more starting pitchers
  2. Two more bullpen arms
  3. Find a replacement for Didi Gregorius

He got two more starting pitchers by trading for James Paxton and re-signing Happ. He’s theoretically “done” with that task.

He’s found a replacement for Didi by signing Troy Tulowitzki, but it seems increasingly likely that Manny Machado could also sign with the Yankees any second now and he would also technically be a Didi replacement even though third base is largely considered where he’ll be long-term.

Now Cash’s primary focus will shift to the bullpen- though he obviously can do multiple things at one time- where the Yankees haven’t made any additions this offseason. Despite several bigger-name relievers signing and being traded already (Edwin Diaz, Andrew Miller, D-Rob, Jeurys Familia, etc.), there is still a pretty vibrant free agent reliever market that the Yanks can choose from, the biggest names left being Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel, and Adam Ottavino.

Kimbrel seems very unlikely for the Bronx, but Britton and Ottavino have been connected to the Bombers all offseason. I’d like to sign both of them, but I wouldn’t rule out the Yankees signing one and perhaps letting Adam Warren re-return. I haven’t really seen reports of them connected to Warren, specifically, but would you really be surprised if they did that?

Another option that I haven’t seen mentioned: I think they very very well could only sign one guy and go into the season with just that. Britton will theoretically get a big payout, so would the Yankees not want to sign him and Ottavino- who I imagine will get somewhere in the 3 years/$30 million range that seems to be the going rate for solid relievers lately- with their luxury-tax-sensitive mindset? I think it’s possible!

The team you start the season with is never what you end the season with, so I feel like they could easily just sign one guy and add another bullpen arm at the deadline if they think they need another.

Another reason I think they might go this way is that of one guy that’s already in-house: Tommy Kahnle. 2018 was a lost season for Kahnle, obviously. He was a combination of bad or hurt in all but, like, two appearances this year and that’s being kind of generous. With that said, let’s not forget how good he was for the Yankees down the stretch of 2017! If Cashman and the Yankees think that they’ll get 2017 Kahnle back this year on the cheap, maybe they’ll give Britton the big contract and then Kahnle would count as that second reliever acquisition. If they did that, and Kahnle is good, then the bullpen is just as formidable as it was with D-Rob and Britton this year. Here’s who they’d have:

  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Britton
  • Dellin Betances
  • Chad Green
  • Jonathan Holder
  • Good version of Tommy Kahnle

That’s a fantastic top 6 in the bullpen. Just as good as 2018’s pen, if you ask me. If I were making the calls I would sign Britton and Ottavino and make it a strong top 7 in the pen and be an improvement on 2018, but I think they very well might roll with this due to cost and other factors. I don’t know what the mindset of the Yankees brass is in regards to Kahnle. I don’t trust him again yet but I have exactly zero access to what’s going on with him and they have about 100 percent access to him. If they think he’s good, then I get it if they think he can kind of count as the second acquisition.

Pretty much all of this is to say that D-Rob is gone and I wish he weren’t, but it’s not surprising and the Yankees bullpen should still be among the best even if they don’t bring in two more guys since we shouldn’t forget about Tommy Kahnle’s bounce-back potential.


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