David Robertson To Red Sox? Why Cubs Closer Makes Sense For Boston

Robertson would be a fantastic piece to add to the bullpen


July 26

Will the Red Sox make a splash at the Major League Baseball trade deadline? Boston is in the thick of the American League wild card race and could use a few pieces. As such, we’ll examine whether several notable trade targets make sense (or don’t make sense) as the club looks to retool for the second half of the season.

While the middle of the Red Sox bullpen is shaky at best, John Schreiber, Tanner Houck and now Garrett Whitlock are forces to be reckoned with when holding a lead late in the game. The addition of one more high-leverage arm could turn a season-long weakness into a strength of the roster.

Chicago Cubs closer David Robertson has been lights out this season and would be a fantastic option to bolster the bullpen for what likely would be some combination of low-end prospects.

Robertson is an impending free agent on a fourth-place Cubs team presumably willing to accept whatever it can for the aging closer. He’s converted 14 of 19 save opportunities (74%), meaning his value likely lies in more of a setup role while Houck continues to close out games, possibly along with Whitlock.

Position: Reliever
Age: 37 (Apr. 9, 1985)
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 195 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

2022 stats*:
35 games, 39 1/3 innings
3-0 record, 1.83 ERA, 50 strikeouts
0.992 WHIP, 3.25 FIP, 229 ERA+
11.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 2.63 K/BB

Career stats*:
708 games, 715 innings
56-33 record, 2.87 ERA, 946 strikeouts
1.147 WHIP, 2.88 FIP, 146 ERA+
11.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.27 K/BB

*through July 25

Why Robertson makes sense for Red Sox:
The Red Sox have the second-most blown saves (20) and the worst save percentage in MLB (50%). Many of those blown saves have come before the ninth inning and Robertson could help lengthen the back of the bullpen. Given the amount of injuries the rotation has suffered, the Red Sox bullpen will have its share of high-leverage innings down the stretch.

Robertson could be a somewhat unexpected answer for manager Alex Cora to lean on in key spots. The veteran closer has three pitches, all of which are performing well and two of which have been nearly unhittable. His cutter averages just 93.3 mph but ranks in the 100th percentile in spin rate and produces a .211 batting average against. His offspeed offerings are among the league’s best with some absolutely stunning results. Robertson’s secondary pitch is a curveball with a .065 BAA and a 45.3% whiff rate. He’s thrown his curve 160 times with just three hits allowed this season. The slider has been just as good, manufacturing a .056 BAA and a 40% whiff rate. He’s allowed just one hit on 117 sliders.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom reportedly is looking for a pair of right-handed arms to bolster the bullpen. Given Whitlock’s conversion back to a multi-inning reliever since the report, Robertson could fill the other role.

Why Robertson doesn’t make sense for Red Sox:
There are only a few counterpoints to argue against Robertson coming to Boston, as he’d immediately be one of the top options in the bullpen.

For starters, Bloom’s plan with the Red Sox is to set his team up for success in the present and the future. Given how many relievers are on the market with multiple years of control, it might make more sense to target options who could benefit the team for multiple seasons, making the loss of prospects easier to swallow.

The Red Sox have been highly inconsistent this season, and investing heavily in the current roster could impact the future of the organization without doing enough to turn around a team that can’t seem to stay healthy enough to compete in 2022.

The other concern about Robertson is his underlying metrics. His 3.25 FIP indicates that his 1.83 ERA is bound to rise at some point, and his expected batting averages, while still elite, are about twice as high as his actual numbers on his curveball and slider. Regression is expected in the second half, though he’d still be one of the better options for the Red Sox if he were to come back to reality.

Verdict: Perfect rental.

Prediction: The Red Sox acquire Robertson despite interest from just about every contender.

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