Mariano Rivera Retirement: 5 Options for Replacing a Legend After 2013
In news that doesn't come as a major shock, but is huge nonetheless, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is reportedly set to announce his retirement at the end of the 2013 season this Saturday (h/t Joel Sherman via Twitter).
The 43-year-old will go down as the greatest reliever of all-time, as he's used his legendary cutter to rack up a record 608 regular-season saves to this point and has another 42 saves with a 0.70 ERA in the postseason.
Rivera missed most of the 2012 season after tearing his ACL in early May, but the team had the luxury of another All-Star closer in Rafael Soriano ready to step in.
They won't have such a clear cut in-house option this time around, and who fills the ninth inning role in the Bronx next year will no doubt be an area of much debate throughout the season.
Here is a look at some early candidates to take over for Rivera in 2014.
The All-Star Setup Man: David Robertson
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For the past three seasons, David Robertson has served as the Yankees' primary setup man, and a strong case can be made that he was the best reliever in baseball during the 2011 season.
In 70 appearances that year, the right-hander went 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings of work. That was enough for him to make his first All-Star appearance, finish 11th in Cy Young voting, 22nd in MVP voting and post a terrific 2.7 WAR.
He was not quite as dominant last season, but solid nonetheless, as he made 65 appearances and registered a 2.67 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 60.2 innings.
For his career, Robertson has a 1.75 ERA with 13.0 K/9 in what are considered "save situations" according to Baseball Reference.
On the flip side, he has converted just 5-of-13 save chances, but that may not be the best indication of how he would fare in the ninth inning role. Someone would have to step up behind him in the setup role for it to work, but Robertson would be a solid option to replace Rivera.
The Top Prospect: Mark Montgomery
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A standout at little-known Longwood University in Virginia, Montgomery was taken by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2011 draft after he recorded 10 saves with a 0.80 ERA and 14.2 K/9 during his junior season.
He signed early enough to make 26 appearances in 2011, saving 15 games and posting a 1.91 ERA and 16.2 K/9 over 26 appearances while reaching Single-A.
That was enough for him to open last season in High Single-A Tampa, where he had 14 saves and a 1.34 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 40.1 innings before being called up to Double-A Trenton where he posted similarly impressive numbers in 15 games.
The 22-year-old has a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and perhaps the best slider in Minor League Baseball. That could be enough for him to wind up in the Yankees' bullpen at some point in 2013, where he may be auditioning for a far more significant role in 2013.
The Potential Trade Target: Chris Perez
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The Indians surprise everyone this offseason when they opted to take on the role of buyer rather than seller, adding Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds, among others.
As a result, guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Chris Perez who were expected to be available on the trade market are staying put, at least for the time being.
While it would appear the Indians are gearing up for a playoff push, the fact remains that their starting rotation is weak and they may not have the horses to make a real run at the postseason.
Should they come up short, those players may find themselves on the trade block after all, as there is no denying the Indians organization is thin on young, impact talent.
The fiery Perez has been one of the AL's top closers since assuming the ninth inning role in 2010, saving 98 games with a 2.84 ERA over the past three seasons.
He's under team control through 2014, so if he doesn't factor into the Indians' long-term plans, next offseason may be the time they look to move him. He'd be a nice stopgap option if nothing else, especially if the price is right.
The Marquee Free Agent: Fernando Rodney
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Coming off of a two-year, $11 million deal with the Angels and with a 4.29 ERA and 87 saves in 419 games during his nine-year big league career, Rodney didn't find many teams interested when he hit the free-agent market last offseason.
He wound up signing a one-year, $2 million contract with the Rays that held a $2.5 million option for 2013.
That ended up being perhaps the biggest steal of the offseason, as Rodney saved 48 games and posted a minuscule 0.60 ERA (634 ERA+) to finish fifth in Cy Young voting and 13th in AL MVP voting.
Needless to say, the Rays exercised their option on the 35-year-old, but chances are they won't want to spend to keep him next offseason and he'll be the top closer on the market if he can come even close to last year's numbers.
The Dark Horse Candidate: Tim Lincecum
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A two-time Cy Young winner and arguably the best pitcher in the game following the 2010 season, Lincecum struggled through some ups-and-downs but still turned in a solid 2011 campaign.
The same can't be said about last season though, as he was a shell of his former self in going 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA. His walks were up, his strikeouts were down and he just never looked like himself the entire season.
As a result, he was relegated to the bullpen during the postseason where he wound up being a deadly weapon for the Giants.
In five total relief appearances during the Giants postseason run, he pitched 13 innings and allowed just three hits and one run while striking out 17.
Perhaps that will be enough to boost his confidence entering what is a contract year, but if he struggles in the rotation again, the idea of using him as a late-inning arm long-term may become a serious option.
It's admittedly a long shot, but it's an option worth bringing up nonetheless.