Yankees could sign familiar bullpen arm in free agency

david robertson, yankees
Nov 2, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher David Robertson (30) pitches against the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in game four of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are losing a few bullpen pieces this off-season to free agency, notably Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Miguel Castro. With Scott Effross also expected to miss all of 2023, having undergone Tommy John surgery, the team may be looking for a piece to add this off-season.

The Yankees should bring back David Robertson:

Coming off an incredible 2022 campaign, veteran David Robertson could find his way back to the Yankees, having last pitched for them back in 2018. After three years of pitching less than 20 total innings, Robertson bounced back impressively in 2022, tossing 63.2 innings, earning a 2.40 ERA and 3.71 xFIP. He also posted 11.45 strikeouts per nine, a 86% left-on-base rate, and a 46.5% ground ball rate.

At 37 years old, Robertson completely turned his career around after a few seasons dealing with injury. In fact, this was his lowest ERA since 2017, doing it with impeccable accuracy rather than high-velocity pitching.

The veteran relief pitcher is coming off a one-year, $3.5 million deal. He was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies at the deadline, helping propel Philadelphia to the playoffs. In fact, during the postseason, he tallied a 1.17 ERA, 12.91 strikeouts per nine, and a 100% left-on-base rate over 7.2 innings.

Given the Yankees’ need in the bullpen, he might be an attainable free-agent option at a reasonable price point. However, coming off a great campaign, a one-year, $5–6 million deal might get the job done.

Robertson primarily relies on a cutter, curveball, and slider sequence. He uses his cutter at 50.9% compared to 73.6% in 2021 over a smaller sample size. His cutter generated a .224 batting average, a 20.8% whiff rate, and a 24.6% put-away rate. His curveball, however, was his best strikeout pitch, producing a 28.3% put-away rate and 39 strikeouts. Opposing batters hit .093 against it over 75 at-bats. He tossed his slider at 22.2%, producing a .167 average with a 38.2% whiff rate. His cutter generates 32% more vertical movement than the average pitcher, which is primarily why he relies on it at 50.9%.

With Robertson’s incredible return in mind, paired with his postseason experience, the Yankees may want a player like him in the clubhouse, given how much youth they are prepared to utilize in 2023.

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