To Qualify Or Not To Qualify: David Robertson

D-Rob vs DET The League Championship Series are in the early stages, so we're weeks away from the realistic deadline.  But with each passing game, that deadline for submitting qualifying offers draws closer.  I briefly touched on the increase of the QO price to $15.3 million last week and my plan was always to discuss the 2 top Yankee QO candidates in greater detail.  We'll start that plan today with a look at the qualifying offer case for David Robertson.

Case For:

  • Consistent Elite Performance- One of the best relievers in MLB since 2011.  19th in IP (258.0), 5th in Strikeouts (354), 8th in K rate (34.0%), 3rd in Holds (97), 9th in FIP (2.40), 4th in fWAR (7.6).
  • Strong 2014 Season- One of the best closers in MLB this past season.  Finished T-8th in Saves (39), 10th in K rate (37.1%), T-13th in reliever fWAR (1.7).
  • Age- In his prime at age 29.  Doesn't turn 30 until after next Opening Day.
  • Durability/Reliability- At least 60 IP every season since 2010.
  • Competition- Attaching draft pick compensation to D-Rob should dissuade other potential teams from pursuing him as aggressively as they might want to.

Case Against:

  • Short-Term Money- $15.3 million is a lot to pay for a relief pitcher, even on a 1-year deal.
  • Long-Term Money- Assuming D-Rob doesn't accept the QO, it's going to take multiple more years and many more dollars to sign him.  A 3-4-year deal worth $12-14 mil per year is not out of the question.
  • Offseason Flexibility- Spending that much on D-Rob for any number of years could hinder the team's ability to spend money to address other roster holes.
  • Readily Available Replacement- Dellin Betances' breakout rookie season makes him look like a future closer in the making.

In addition to all the shiny numbers presented above, D-Rob has his status as a homegrown career Yankee working to his advantage here.  If he were a hired outside gun, like Rafael Soriano a few years ago, chances would be better that the Yanks would either not make him the QO for fear that he would accept or not pursue a new deal if they made the QO and he rejected.  The Yankees are always ones to show more love to their own, so it's almost unfathomable that they would not extend a qualifying offer to their homegrown closer.

What adds a small bit of uncertainty to the situation is the multitude of other roster holes that need filling this offseason and the expectation that the Yankees will not be spending wildly to fill them all.  Robertson is going to be the best available relief pitcher on the market and there are a handful of big budget teams who are in desperate need of late-inning relief help.  The $15.3 mil represents the ceiling of what Robertson could earn on the open market, but his floor isn't much lower than that.  If the Yankees decide to shell out that kind of coin for a relief pitcher, that may mean they end up taking the cheap route somewhere else this offseason (third base, shortstop, rotation, bench).

Will that be enough to scare them off entirely?  Highly doubtful.  If anything, the high demand for D-Rob and high price he's expected to command makes it more of a no-brainer for the Yanks to make him the QO.  At least that way they don't lose him for nothing if somebody like the Dodgers or Tigers goes all out to sign him.

The bullpen is the one place where the Yankees have substantial organizational depth, and by moving Betances into the closer role and plugging another young arm (or free agent) into the middle relief mix, they could still field a pretty good 'pen next season without Robertson.  D-Rob's presence is the difference between being pretty good and potentially elite, however, and his homegrown status all but guarantees he will receive a QO when the time comes.