By Brad Carroll
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has had way more misses than hits recently, frustrating the fan base with decisions that make little to no sense, while the good ones aren't nearly high enough in numbers to make up for it. Getting Masahiro Tanaka was great, but the deals for Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, along with the trade for Stephen Drew, were all questionable.
Don't even bring up some of his past deals, with the biggest disaster being the Mark Teixeira contract. The Yankees first baseman will be the team's highest paid player the next two seasons. For a player who has never lived up to his huge, eight-year contract, that hurts.
But for all of Cashman's recent faults, he has put together the bullpen perfectly this offseason, including the decision to let closer David Robertson walk without even giving an offer. That, along with the acquisition of step-up man Andrew Miller and the hopeful ascension to the closer role of Dellin Betances, and the Yankees have one of the best 1-2 punches to close out games in baseball.
In addition, the Yankees will get a first-round draft pick as compensation for losing Robertson, which is exactly what a lacking farm system needs.
"It might not be the popular decision," Cashman said of letting Robertson walk. "But I think it's the best one."
In this case, most Yankees fans either would or should agree. Numbers wise, Robertson was a solid closer, but this past season would have been the worst of Mariano Rivera's career. While unfair to compare the two, it does show the Yankees could take a chance with a player who has followed Rivera's career path so far, and give him the chance to succeed, instead of paying enormous money to a guy who is easily replaceable.
Betances has all the similarities to Rivera you could want. He didn't make it as a starting pitcher and was forced to move into a set-up role in the bullpen to save his career. Both Rivera and Betances shined in that latter role, with Rivera backing up John Wetteland and Betances doing the same for Robertson. Rivera took over the closer role one year later, when the Yankees let Wetteland leave. The Yankees have already let Robertson go this offseason, the only thing left is to make Betances the closer.
Cashman isn't ready to do that just yet, and there is talk the Yankees will go out and sign Sergio Romo to take over the closer role and have Miller and Betances be the set-up men. While that might create a "super bullpen," which was made popular by the Royals this past season, there is no reason to waste money when there are other holes to fill.
The Yankees don't have to worry about the bullpen anymore, even if neither Betances nor Miller have held the closer job before. The Yankees need to get a starting pitcher, and with the money saved by letting Robertson go and passing on the big-money shortstop in Hanley Ramirez, they should make the biggest splash of the entire offseason and sign Max Scherzer.
But as far as the bullpen goes, the Yankees are set, especially at the back end.
"We are not a finished product," Cashman said. "Our closer might be on this roster. He might not be here right now. I just don't know yet."
That's the one time Cashman's been wrong about the bullpen this offseason. Betances is the guy.