The New York Yankees have no real need for a top end closer for next season with the ageless Mariano Rivera still manning the ninth. However, could next season be his last in pinstripes?
With Rivera approaching his 42nd birthday later this month, the Yankees must start thinking about life without him. He has shown that age is not a factor as he had an outstanding year in 2011.
But when will he decide to call it quits?
Enter Jonathan Papelbon. No spring chicken himself, Papelbon, born six days and eleven years after the Sandman, could be an option.
Could you actually picture Paps in Yankee pinstripes? Personally I couldn’t see it, but think of the animosity that that new signing would bring to their rivalry.
However, the question remains: Do the Yankees need Papelbon?
Let us look at some different 2011 statistics, I will outline who they belong to afterwards:
IP ER BB K ERA WHIP BAA K/9
1. 64.1 21 10 87 2.94 0.93 .207 12.17
2. 61.1 13 8 60 1.91 0.90 .215 8.84
3. 66.2 8 35 100 1.08 1.13 .170 13.6
Outlining these statistics shows that all three of these pitchers had fantastic years.
Now, compare them to these three:
4. 88 18 43 96 1.84 1.09 .176 9.81
5. 77 18 32 127 2.10 1.04 .178 14.84
6. 73.2 8 21 67 0.98 1.09 .221 8.2
So, how would it work for the Yankees to bring in Jonathan Papelbon when they already have two of the above relievers (yes, I think you know who they are)?
If Papelbon signed with the Yankees, their bullpen would be absolutely outstanding. In any lead situation, they would only require their starter to pitch six innings because you would have Roberston in the seventh, Paps in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth.
That sort of late-inning pen would solidify leads like no other and would help maintain leads for the abysmal Yankees starting rotation. Moreover, once Rivera retired, both Robertson and Papelbon would move up an inning, maintaining a solid endgame for the Yanks.
This three-headed monster reminds me of the Atlanta Braves of this past season. O’Flaherty (No. 6), Venters (No. 4) and Kimbrel (No. 5) had one of the most dynamic cumulative seasons for any bullpen. With O’Flaherty in the seventh, Venters in the eighth and Kimbrel holding down the save, these three propelled the Braves much farther than they should have gone.
The difference between the Braves top three and the Yankees possible top three is about $25 million a season.
If the Yankess had that, their rotation woes would be less of a worry because these relievers could come in at any time.
So, in my humble opinion, the only way it could work to bring Jonathan Papelbon to the Yankees would be if they failed to attract any top line starter (e.g. Wilson, Darvish) and needed more protection in the later innings.
With Robertson (No. 3) waiting in the wings to close, Papelbon (No. 1) is not necessarily needed. But the animosity it would bring Boston, plus the pitching help that the Yankees sorely need, could make it an interesting and effective strategy.