SAN DIEGO - The Royals made it to the seventh game of the World Series in large part because of a lockdown bullpen that shortened games to six innings, and the sport took notice.
The Yankees were among the teams that took note of the Royals' methods, and they dreamed of perhaps as devastating a seventh-eighth-ninth-inning combination with Dellin Betances, the recently signed Andrew Miller and closer David Robertson.
Time for Plan B.
Robertson, who went 39-for-44 in saves and struck out 96 in 641/3 innings last season as Mariano Rivera's replacement, agreed to a four-year, $46-million deal with the White Sox late Monday night, a contract first reported by USA Today.
The Yankees were willing to discuss the possibility of a four-year deal with the 29-year-old Robertson, but ultimately not at the kind of dollars the White Sox were willing to give.
Robertson's departure leaves the Yankees, who signed the lefthanded Miller to a four-year, $36-million deal last Friday, in the market for additional bullpen help. General manager Brian Cashman, who arrived here for the winter meetings Monday afternoon, already had been working the trade and free-agent markets for late-inning bullpen help in the event Robertson left, efforts that no doubt will be redoubled in the coming days and weeks.
The Yankees very well could go into spring training with the intent of giving righthander Dellin Betances -- who had a 1.40 ERA and struck out 135 in 90 innings (70 appearances) last season -- every opportunity to earn the closer's role, and add a veteran closer, such as Jason Grilli, as insurance.
The Yankees traded for lefthander Justin Miller earlier this offseason, getting him from the Pirates for Francisco Cervelli, and many in the organization expect Jacob Lindgren, a lefthander who was the club's second-round draft pick last June, to compete for a bullpen spot in spring training.
Before news of Robertson's signing, Andrew Miller indicated how much respect he has for Betances. He said that if Robertson left, he expected Betances to get the first chance to close.
"What he did was pretty incredible,'' Miller said. "Everything he did was what I was trying to mimic as much as possible. It seemed like when he came in, he was aggressive from the get-go. He has pitches where it doesn't really matter what he's throwing. He just was really aggressive in the zone, and that's what I'm trying to do myself. His ability to come in and pitch to lefthanders, righthanders, whatever inning it was, was really impressive.''
Though Miller, who posted a 2.02 ERA and struck out 103 in 621/3 innings in 2014, has only one save in nine seasons, if the opportunity to close is given to him, he will embrace it.
"I certainly think I'm capable,'' Miller said on a conference call with reporters much earlier in the day. "If Robertson does not sign , then I would assume they clearly feel comfortable with . . . Everybody saw what Betances was last year. I'm pretty confident in myself. I think I can get three outs at any point in the game. Wherever that may be, whatever it is, is fine with me. I want to win. I want to shake hands and high-five at the end of the game more than anything.''
Friday's activity, a busy day in which the Yankees also completed a three-team trade for shortstop Didi Gregorius, allowed Cashman to cross two items off his to-do list, but there remains much to be done.
The rotation needs bolstering -- counting out the Yankees in the pursuit of some of the big-name starters on the market, a common theme earlier in the offseason, should be done with caution -- and insurance is needed at third base. Chase Headley remains the Yankees' preferred target, as has been the case since this year's free-agency period kicked off.
And though Cashman has talked about a spring training battle at second base between rookies Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, he also is looking for depth at that position.
"The Yankees never stop,'' Andrew Miller said, adding another reason that he signed with them. "If something was appealing, they'll never stop adding pieces."