As Deadline looms, Robertson reflects on personal rebound with Cubs

July 29th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- David Robertson spotted a group of reporters approaching his locker on Thursday afternoon and the veteran pitcher smiled and quickly retreated to a nearby hall. As he headed off, the reliever sent some parting words.

"I don't know anything!" Robertson quipped in the hours before Chicago's 4-2 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park.

A moment after that playful exchange, Robertson was back at his assigned stall, doing what he could to provide quotes for inquiries with no firm answers. Only the arrival of the 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline on Tuesday can turn all the current question marks into periods.

Robertson is one of the Cubs' primary trade chips, along with All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. Within the bullpen, Robertson could be one of a handful of arms on the move. Setup men Mychal Givens and Chris Martin also fit that description.

When he signed a one-year deal with the Cubs going into this season, Robertson had hoped the crop of veterans joining the club could help hoist Chicago closer to contention. That was always a best-case scenario, and injuries and other issues sent Chicago into a first-half spiral.

"We would've liked to have done better," Robertson said, "be at a better position in the season so that we're not dealing with all this trade talk. But, that didn't work out and the organization's going to do what they need to do to make themselves better for the upcoming years.

"If part of that is moving me and other players in this clubhouse to get the talent that they need to get to where they want to be, then so be it. There's not much I can do about it.

"I'm still going to get an opportunity to play baseball. I signed up to play and I'm being paid to play and I'm going to play for whoever has me between the lines."

A year ago, the Cubs had a dynamic veteran bullpen trio of Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin. Ahead of the Deadline, Chicago traded all three: Kimbrel to the White Sox for Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer; Tepera to the White Sox for Bailey Horn; and Chafin to the A's for prospects Daniel Palencia (now the Cubs’ No. 25 prospect) and Greg Deichmann.

This time around, the Cubs could repeat that blueprint with Robertson, Givens and Martin. Both New York teams have reported interest in the 37-year-old Robertson, who has had multiple stints with the Yankees. That includes being traded to the Yankees in a Deadline deal in 2017.

"If I end up in New York, I'll be playing in New York," said Robertson, downplaying any personal interest in returning to the Big Apple. "I mean, 12 teams get into the playoffs now. There's plenty of opportunity."

In Thursday's loss, Martin logged 1 1/3 innings with three strikeouts. Robertson warmed up in the bullpen in the ninth in case the Cubs pulled off a rally, but a comeback did not materialize. That made it four days off (including Wednesday's team off-day) for Robertson, whose stock is as high as it can get.

Cubs manager David Ross insisted that the Trade Deadline has not impacted how he has used Robertson.

"My main goal is to take care of everybody," Ross said. "I don't put more importance on David than I do Scott Effross, to be honest with you. I just try to make sure certain guys with injury history are higher on the radar. Guys that are older probably need a little bit more time to recover."

Robertson returned from Tommy John surgery last season and has enjoyed a strong showing with a clean bill of health.

Through 35 appearances, Robertson has a 1.83 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 19 walks in 39 1/3 innings. His average cutter velocity (93.3 mph) is the best it has been since 2011 (93.5 mph), per Statcast. His average exit velocity allowed (87.8 mph) is his best since 2017 (87.1 mph).

"I just needed to be healthy," Robertson said. "I worked hard and got another opportunity and got a deal that was favorable to me. And I thought it was a pretty fair shake at trying to rebound at the back end of my career."

And if the end of the road with the Cubs is coming?

"I can't thank the Cubs enough," Robertson said. "I'm going to continue to play hard while I'm a Cub."