Robertson, 32 in April, signed a 4-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox two winters ago. He was coming off a season in which he had a 3.08 ERA, 2.68 FIP and a career-best 37.1 K% with the Yankees. He set up Mariano Rivera for 3-4 years prior to that.
Since signing with Chicago, he has a 3.44 ERA, 3.04 FIP and 31.1 K%. This includes his down 2016 that saw his numbers regress a bit — specifically his walk rate. It skyrocketed to 12 percent, a level it hasn’t been for him since it was 12.9 percent in 2011. From 2012-14, his walk rate was just 7.8 percent. For context, Jansen’s career walk rate is 7.5 percent.
The cause of Robertson’s struggles could be a leg injury. He had a strained left leg around the All-Star break and, possibly unrelated, had arthroscopic knee surgery on Nov. 1.
“The procedure was a simple cleanup of a meniscus issue that the White Sox closer had pitched with for a while, and the club said he will be without restrictions upon reporting for Spring Training in February.”
Additionally, like Chris Sale, Robertson could benefit from a gigantic leap in framing from the White Sox to the Dodgers.
Robertson is a 2-pitch pitcher, owning a cut fastball (92 MPH) and a curveball (81 MPH). He doesn’t throw the cutter nearly as much as Jansen does, but it has been an effective pitch for him over the years, and his curveball is much more effective than Jansen’s slider. In the last three seasons, Robertson has induced no less than 23.28 percent swinging strikes with the pitch.
Here are how teams have fared against his pitches over the course of his career in batting average against:
The numbers, particularly for his curveball, are even more impressive when it comes to isolated power (ISO):
Overall, Robertson’s swinging strike rate has been no worse than 12.2 percent in the last three seasons.
Perhaps the most appealing part of Robertson is that the acquisition cost shouldn’t be that great. The White Sox are in full rebuilding mode and Robertson is due $25 million over the next two seasons. One year of Wade Davis returned Jorge Soler, so two years of Robertson could net the White Sox a couple of mid-level prospects — think guys like Imani Abdullah, Chase De Jong, Yusniel Diaz, Johan Mieses, Trevor Oaks, Josh Sborz. If it’s a 1-for-1 deal, maybe the best the White Sox could expect is a Willie Calhoun, Jordan Sheffield or Gavin Lux (all guys who could interest the Twins in a potential Brian Dozier deal).
Even at his best, Robertson is a clear step down from Jansen. But with Davis already traded to the Cubs and Zach Britton not exactly available, he might be the best person to replace Jansen in the closer’s role. The Dodgers certainly don’t have a viable in-house candidate for the job, either. Pedro Baez and Grant Dayton would probably be first up, but we’ve seen Baez struggle in the past and Dayton just completed his first MLB season … at age 28. We just don’t know exactly who the real Grant Dayton is yet.
So, if the Marlins get frisky and want to pay Jansen more than $80 million for five years (and forfeit the No. 13 overall pick in the MLB Draft), don’t expect the Dodgers to match or beat it. There are viable replacements, and Robertson might very well be the best one available.