By Ernie Palladino
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Brian Cashman did a good thing in trading for young shortstop Didi Gregorius.
He did an excellent thing in agreeing to sign elite reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract.
Now, if he wants to do something truly great during his Winter Meetings stay in San Diego this week, he’ll step away from his executive brethren, find himself a quiet room, pull out his cell phone, and ring up David Robertson’s agent.
As soon as Scott Leventhal answers, Cashman’s first words should be “Four years, $52 million.” And then the two can dicker from there.
That big contract is all that stands in the way of a dreamy back end of the bullpen, a three-pitcher alignment that could turn even a mediocre hitting team into an instant AL East contender. If Cashman can somehow land his own free-agent closer, the Yanks’ potential will skyrocket.
Imagine. Miller in the seventh, Dellin Betances in the eighth, and Robertson to close. It’s the type of pen a lot of teams only dream about. And it’s all for Cashman’s taking right now if he’s willing to spend for the right-handed Robertson, who compiled 39 saves in his first year succeeding Mariano Rivera.
While it’s certainly true that Leventhal is in no hurry to make a deal and most likely true that he has a passel of suitors for Robertson’s services, it is absolutely true that Cashman can do more for the Yanks by laying out a bushel of dollars for his closer than any deal he can swing at the Winter Meetings. Steal him away from Toronto, who apparently love him. Don’t even give the Astros an opening. For all the needs the Yanks have — another starting pitcher, a third baseman, younger power throughout the lineup — he can turn his bullpen into a true lockdown unit by locking up Robertson for four years.
The Royals and Giants proved that bullpens win pennants. But that’s nothing new. The Yanks used to do the same thing with back ends like Rivera, Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton. Oh, it helped to have Bernie and Tino and Jeter and Jorge and O’Neill around, but it was the efficiency of the pen that kept so many of those leads the lineup offered.
In the current era, where the lineup looks nothing like those run-producers of Joe Torre’s reign, have a threesome like Miller, Betances, and Robertson to protect whatever slim leads the bruised and aged position players provide will be the difference between success and yet another failed, non-playoff season.
Cashman has no excuse not to get this deal done. For all of ownership’s wishes to keep expenses to a minimum, the Yanks have thrown big bucks around to what they believed were the right people. And remember, one of those right people was Alex Rodriguez, to whom they still owe $61 million for the final three years of his 10-year, $275 million contract. We all saw how that turned out.
They can probably get along without Robertson by making Betances the closer and the imposing, left-handed Miller as a setup man. Miller could even close a few games if the ninth presents a tough lefty or two. But it would be so much better with Robertson. Signing him would turn the bullpen into the envy of the league.
A young power hitter isn’t coming to the Yanks unless some miracle happens. Cashman doesn’t have the desirable pieces to work a trade like that. He has already given up one young starter, Shane Greene, for a no-hit shortstop. Unless Cashman somehow scams a fellow GM out of a slugger, signing Robertson is the best move he can make this week. Even if it means overpaying.
He should get right on that.
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