SAN DIEGO - Let's start with what we do know about the back end of the
David Robertson won't be the closer.
Beyond that, neither Brian Cashman nor Joe Girardi provided much clarity as to who would replace the man who replaced Mariano Rivera.
Despite having a reliable, homegrown successor to the best closer in baseball history, the Yankees let Robertson bolt to the White Sox late Monday night without even making him an offer.
That's because they already had drawn up their winter blueprint -- and Robertson evidently wasn't a part of it. As Cashman explained Tuesday, he was content to pass on Robertson, save $10 million by signing Andrew Miller instead and pocket the draft pick.
The idea of having both in the bullpen was nothing but a smoke screen. In fact, Cashman described it as a way to get Robertson a few extra bucks.
"I wanted to maximize his free-agent value, to be honest," Cashman said. "Not that he needs any help from me, but I felt it was in his interest to have the Yankees still be in it."
But was choosing Miller over Robertson really in the best interests of the Yankees? Guess we'll see how that draft pick turns out because $10 million is couch-cushion money in the Bronx. Robertson had the impossible task of taking over for Rivera and went 39-for-44 in save chances in his first season as a full-time closer.
Don't discount the value of Robertson's apprenticeship under Rivera, who showed him not only how to be a closer in that brutal environment, but to handle the pressure like a pro. That's more than just numbers. It's staying composed in front of the TV cameras after the inevitable blown saves, then dusting yourself off for the next night.
Obviously, the Yankees were spoiled with Rivera. During the past 18 seasons, they've only needed two other closers. Rafael Soriano had 42 saves after Rivera blew out his knee in 2012 and then Robertson graduated from the setup role last year.
Maybe they made it look too easy, because the Yankees don't sound overly concerned about finding another closer, with Cashman suggesting he may not even be on the roster. Miller is a possibility, despite having one save on his resume. Dellin Betances has the nastiest stuff, with a 100-mph fastball and a wicked slider, but he's only had one season of high-leverage situations after Tommy John surgery early in his career.
Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren also may have to be in the mix, and the Yankees could go the free-agent route to add further protection with the likes of Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez or Sergio Romo. The only thing for certain is they aren't prepared to give anyone the title -- right now or in the immediate future.
"We'll talk about it as spring training goes on to see what is the best situation," Joe Girardi said. "I think you have to figure out who is in your bullpen. You could do probably a lot of different things. It could be dependent on how many days in a row a guy has worked. But I like the arms that we have down there."
Managers like to talk about keeping their options open, and Girardi can mix-and-match with the group he has down there now. But ultimately it comes down to relying on that one guy for those final three outs -- and the Yankees don't have one guy with the track record to inspire that type of confidence.
A few candidates have potential. But nobody down there has proved themselves as a closer yet. At the very least, Robertson was able to do that, and parlayed the one season into a four-year, $46-million payday with the White Sox.
"It might not be the popular decision," Cashman said of turning the page on Robertson, "but I think it's the best one."
We have no way of knowing that yet. A year ago, the Yankees didn't have to think so hard with Robertson waiting to step in for Rivera. And now here they are playing closer roulette, something they haven't been forced to do in nearly two decades.
Robertson allowed the Yankees to move on from Mo. Getting over Robertson may not be so easy.