Monday, December 2, 2013

Mariano Rivera is gone, and David Robertson doesn't appear to be the top candidate to close out games for the Yankees next season, although that had been the plan all along.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said publicly this offseason that he isn't sure if Robertson is ready to be the closer, and that the Yanks are looking at all closer options out there.

As you might already know, the deadline for teams to tender contract to their players is 11:59pm EST tonight, and the St. Louis Cardinals are expected to non-tender reliever John Axford, making him a free-agent. In my opinion, Axford could be a great addition for to the bullpen for the Yankees, and it's leading me to hope the Cards non-tender him.

Grant Balfour and Joe Nathan are a couple of names that have come up this winter when talking about possible closer candidates for the Yankees.

While, yeah, those would be good people worthy of the job, I still think that Robertson has shown over the past couple of years as the Yankees' setup man that he has what it takes to be the closer. They don't need to sign a closer, when they already have one in Robertson.

No, what they need is a setup man, and Axford could be that guy. He was traded to the Cardinals from Milwaukee this past season, and he pitched very well for St. Louis down the stretch and through the playoffs, striking out 20 batters and walking seven in 16 innings for the Cardinals between the regular season and the postseason.

Of course, though, there would be some concern in signing Axford. He was among the best closers in the league from 2010 to 2011, but his struggles with the Brewers in 2012 and 2013 before being traded lost him his closer role with Milwaukee. He lost the ability to throw strikes, and became very inconsistent.

Axford is still able to get his fastball in the mid-90's, and he's got a good curveball to go with it. I would expect that he would draw interest from a handful of teams looking for bullpen help, like the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners.

For the time being, I really don't see anyone on the roster that I would trust being the setup man behind Robertson, the closer. Axford would be a solid option for any team, and I think the Yankees could be that team.


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