The White Sox and Nationals are still discussing a deal that would send closer David Robertson to the nation’s capital, according to Ken Rosenthal. This would fulfill the Nats’ desire to have a proven save-getter in the ninth inning, while moving the excellent Shawn Kelley back to a more flexible setup role.
Robertson was one of the most dominant setup men in baseball from 2011-2013, striking out 258 batters in 193.2 innings, with a 1.91 ERA. After Mariano Rivera’s retirement, the Yankees elevated him to closer. He signed a four year, $46 million contract with the Sox the next offseason, on which he has two years and $25 million remaining. His ERA has suffered (3.32) since becoming a closer, but he’s saved 110 games at a respectable 85% clip, with 257 strikeouts in 190 innings.
After the implosion of Jonathan Papelbon, the Nats turned to Kelley last year, and then traded for Mark Melancon. Melancon left to sign with the Giants, and Washington has simply been unable to upgrade the position because of the huge markup on elite relievers. While using Kelley would be an option (he’s certainly good enough), he’s an incredible weapon in the mode of a poor man’s Dellin Betances, and the Nats would be wise to use him as situations dictate, rather than saving him for the ninth. Also, Robertson would fit perfectly with the Nats’ plans. He’s under contract for what’s now a reasonable price over the next two years, after which Bryce Harper is scheduled to become a free agent.
This would be the second trade between the Nats and the rebuilding White Sox this offseason. An earlier deal netted the NL East champs Adam Eaton, while costing them two excellent pitching prospects in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. The Sox have finally decided to go full rebuild, and seem to be making the very most of their top shelf talent.
Unfortunately, because of the Eaton deal, and others used push the club into a World Series before Bryce Harper enters free agency, the Nats don’t have a ton to offer the Sox. Center fielder Victor Robles is one of the best prospects in baseball, but probably isn’t in play here. Erick Fedde, a 24 year old who profiles as a mid-rotation starter, but who has fewer than 30 innings in Double-A, could be. So could higher-risk prospects like Carter Kieboom and Juan Soto, who are still years away from the Majors, or a reclamation project like A.J. Cole.