New York Yankees: 10 Pitchers Who Could Replace Mariano Rivera After 2012

Bill Ford@billfordwritesCorrespondent IIIFebruary 14, 2012

New York Yankees: 10 Pitchers Who Could Replace Mariano Rivera After 2012

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    One of the most difficult topics for Yankee fans to discuss is the probable retirement announcement that we will hear from Mariano Rivera after the 2012 season comes to a close.

    A career-long Yankee, he is one of the members of the core-four Yankees who have been the heart and soul of the organization.

    Always gracious, he never accepts accolades for himself without directing the spotlight onto his teammates. In his mind, the team created their success as a collective entity.

    Rivera rose to every occasion throughout his career with an occasional bump and developed his pitching into a skill that every pitcher strives to achieve.

    If there were a list in front of you of elite closers, Mariano Rivera would be at the top.

    As difficult as it is to accept, we all know that Rivera's time in pinstripes will likely come to an end after this season. We all wish that he could go on forever, but he's only human.

    Once his time has come to retire, the question arises about who will become his replacement as the Yankees closer.

    Watching someone new walk to the mound to close the game without hearing "Enter Sandman" playing will be strange, but there are some quality pitchers who may be able to assume the role.

    No one will ever truly replace Rivera, but there are some options.

Francisco Cordero

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    Veteran closer Francisco Cordero has 13 seasons behind him pitching in both the AL and the NL. Over those seasons, he had a win-loss record of 44-45, 765 strikeouts, 327 saves and a 3.17 ERA.

    He signed a one-year contract this offseason with the Toronto Blue Jays for $4.5 million to be their setup man for Sergio Santos.

    If Mariano Rivera does retire after the 2012 season, Cordero could be available at the end of his one-year deal with Toronto.

    Cordero's velocity with his fastball has slightly declined to about 94 MPH, but he has compensated by adding new pitches to his arsenal and has been successful.

David Robertson

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    David Robertson has been a pitcher with the Yankees for four seasons.

    He proved to New York and to himself that he is capable of pitching in high-pressure conditions, which is important with a team like the Yankees. In the 2009 ALDS and the ALCS, he entered two games with multiple runners on base and got out of each inning with no runs scoring, giving him a win in both games.

    Over his four seasons with NY, he has pitched 202 innings with a win-loss record of 14-6, 270 strikeouts and a 3.03 ERA.

    He is a 2009 World Series champion, a 2011 All-Star, led the AL in ERA in 2011 and was the Gibby's Setup Man of the Year in 2011.

    He's young and has a great deal of experience. He may actually be at the top of Brian Cashman's list.

Dellin Betances

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    When Rivera steps up to the mound, batters are quickly intimidated, whether they admit it or not. Standing 6'8" and 260 pounds, Dellin Betances is quite an intimidating presence. Intimidation is quite an asset on the mound.

    Most people think of Betances as being a starting pitcher, and he would certainly be useful in that role, but the Yankees should consider his talent for the role of closer. Rivera did not begin his Yankee career as a closer, but he transitioned well into that role.

    Betances has a fastball that averages about 95 MPH and occasionally hits 97 MPH. He has an impressively sharp curveball that reaches about 83 MPH.

    Once he gains some more experience in Triple-A and with another probable Sept. call-up, he may be ready to step into the closer role and shut down games.

Francisco Rodriguez

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    Francisco Rodriguez signed a one-year contract with the Brewers in January for $8 million. Once 2012 ends, he will be available, and New York should give some very serious consideration to picking up this pitcher.

    Known as K-Rod, he expressed unhappy feelings with the Brewers last season because they pushed him into the setup role, and he wanted to be a closer. He has the ability to be a high-quality closer, and that's exactly what he wants to do.

    In his 10 seasons in MLB, he has pitched 648.2 innings with a win-loss record of 36-27, 806 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA.

    K-Rod is in the prime of his career and will only get better.

    The Yankees would not make a mistake by picking him up.

Brian Wilson

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    San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson won't be a free agent until 2014. That doesn't help much for 2013, but sometimes good things happen for those who wait.

    If Rivera retires after 2012, they have a few options for 2013 that I've already mentioned.

    The chances of the Giants letting Wilson go are pretty slim in my opinion. He has been invaluable to them, but you never know what changes could occur over the next year or two.

    Wilson is a powerful pitcher with a four-seam fastball that reaches 98 MPH and occasionally 100 MPH. He has a great slider, and he has a cut fastball in the low 90 MPH range. We all know how devastating Rivera's cut fastball has been for batters.

    New York's chances of getting Wilson aren't very good, but it's something to consider.

Jonathan Papelbon

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    As a Yankees fan, I have to admit that Papelbon's stare that he does just before he throws can be annoying. He may think that he intimidates batters with that stare, but I don't think so.

    That being said, I can't deny his talent and skills.

    He signed with the Phillies for a four-year, $50 million contract and a vesting option for a fifth year.

    The Yankees should spend some time in 2012 observing how he does pitching and playing in the NL. There's no telling right now how he'll do in Philadelphia in 2012, but it's important to pay attention. Things may not work out for him there.

    Right now, the Yankees are in talks with the Pirates to trade A.J. Burnett, whose contract hasn't expired yet with NY.

    Yes, it's another long-shot, but the Yankees could consider picking up Papelbon's contract in 2013 or 2014.

    Yankee fans may not like him because of the well-known rivalry from his Boston days, but he is a high-quality and very effective closer.

Phil Hughes

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    Phil Hughes struggled in the 2011 season while his velocity diminished. The Yankees discovered that he suffered from arm fatigue, and Hughes ended up on the disabled list.

    2011 was disappointing with his performance, but let's have faith that he can make a comeback.

    The Yankees signed him to a one-year deal on Jan. 16, 2012, worth $3.25 million plus incentives, so they seem to have faith in him.

    Hughes pitched well in seasons prior to 2011. In 2009, he performed well as the setup man. He dominated in that role and helped the Yankees win the World Series. He should have remained in that role and should have been groomed to move into the closer role. Instead, the Yankees made him a starter and decided that starting fifth in the rotation was right for him.

    That proved to be a mistake.

    This could very well be the right time to condition Hughes and prepare him for the closing role. Starting is clearly not the right spot for him, but he has the talent to fit into a closer.

Joba Chamberlain

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    Joba Chamberlain is another case in which a pitcher was placed in a role that was not well-suited for him at a particular point in his career. He struggled quite a bit in the starting rotation in 2009, especially in the second half of the season.

    The Yankees used him in the setup role for the postseason, which seemed to be better suited for him.

    In the 2010 spring training, Chamberlain lost the fifth spot in the starting rotation to Phil Hughes, and Joba was sent to the bullpen.

    In 2011 the Yankees decided that he would not be considered for a starting role and chose to use him as a relief pitcher. The Yankees noticed that his velocity remained higher when he pitched out of relief from the bullpen.

    They moved him into a role to pitch in the seventh inning before Rafael Soriano and then Chamberlain became the setup man for Mariano Rivera when Soriano ended up on the disabled list. In June Chamberlain also ended up on the disabled list to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

    After bouncing him around a bit on the pitching staff, it is clear that he should be used as a later-inning pitcher. He does well in that spot and has the potential to fill the role as a closer.

    Spring training will give us a better idea how well he has recovered from his surgery.

Rafael Soriano

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    Rafael Soriano was selected in 2010 to the All-Star game to replace Mariano Rivera who was injured at the time. He also led the American League in saves in 2010.

    Soriano was brought on to be the setup man for Rivera until Soriano ended up on the disabled list.

    With 10 seasons in MLB, he has a 2.86 ERA, 458 strikeouts and 90 saves in 434.1 innings pitched.

    He is an experienced veteran who in his first game back from the disabled list, threw a scoreless ninth inning and struck out two batters against the Orioles.

    The Yankees spent the 2011 season grooming him, and he would be a great choice to step up to the mound as a closer.

Manny Banuelos

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    Until recently, I never thought of pitching prospect Manny Banuelos as a closer.

    We've all heard so much about him, and everyone seems to expect him to become a part of the starting pitching rotation in 2013 or 2014. That may very well be the case, but I wonder if he should be considered for the closing role.

    As I mentioned earlier, Mariano Rivera did not start out as a closer. He developed into the role, and it became a perfect fit for him.

    The Yankees have made some good moves this offseason, and there may not be a spot for Banuelos in the starting rotation when he's ready to hit the big leagues. This scenario presents an opportunity to develop and condition him precisely for this role.

    He has been phenomenal in the minors with a win-loss record of 19-17 and a 3.02 ERA over four seasons.

    He was invited to spring training in 2011 and has been invited again for the 2012 season. While in spring training in 2011, Mariano Rivera said that he thought that Banuelos was the best pitching prospect that he had seen. Rivera, the greatest closer in MLB, knows what he's talking about, and the Yankees organization should pay close attention.

    If the possibility of Banuelos moving into a closer position came into fruition, it may not happen until 2014, but I think that the Yankees should think long term at the benefit of preparing him now.