added 11/25/2014 by Greg Thurston
One of the top priorities for Jeff Luhnow and the Astros this winter is upgrading a bullpen that was the worst in the majors last season. Adding a top tier closer could be the first step. According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the Astros have been in contact with David Robertson's agent. After replacing the legendary Mariano Rivera as the New York Yankees' closer last season, Robertson converted 39 of 44 save opportunities, striking out 96 and walking 23 in 46-1/3rd innings.
Robertson has been one of the most effective relievers in the American League over the last four seasons. The righthander, who will turn 30 next April, owns a career 2.81 ERA and averages twelve strikeouts per nine innings.
But Robertson's asking price is high and could be out of the Astros' budget, even with Houston expected to add $20 million to their payroll from 2014. Robertson is said to be looking for a four-year deal in excess of $50 million. In addition, his refusal of the Yankees' $15.3 million qualifying offer means the Astros would also have to give up a draft pick to sign him. However, Houston already has two top ten picks that are protected, meaning the club would only lose their second round pick by signing Robertson.
Is Robertson worth that much to the Astros? I'd have to say no. Having a shutdown reliever at the back of the bullpen is a major plus, but a team needs to be able to get to the ninth inning with the lead in order to utilize such a player. This team probably isn't there yet - and investing that much in a closer seems like a stretch.
Last winter, the Astros signed three veteran relievers in an attempt to fix a broken bullpen - and we all know how that worked out. Jesse Crain missed the entire season due to injuries and Matt Albers made only eight appearances in April before being lost for the rest of the year.
There's an adage in baseball that says "don't pay for saves". It will be interesting to see what strategy the decision scientists employ this winter. The fact remains that the bullpen is a glaring weakness. Are the Astros ready to throw money at it? We are about to find out.