Robertson brings experience to crowded closer discussion

February 18th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Max Scherzer and had a couple of brief conversations this offseason as Robertson entered free agency. It was nothing too crazy, but Scherzer did tell his former Mets teammate that he should consider joining him in Texas.

“I was like, ‘That sounds great, I'll wait for Chris [Young] to reach out,’” Robertson said with a laugh. “Luckily, that’s what he did. And we’re here.”

Robertson is his own agent, so his free agency isn’t a traditional process. But he said negotiating with Rangers general manager Chris Young was easy.

“He thought it'd be a good fit here and I thought the same thing,” Robertson said. “Obviously, I would like to win another World Series. I'm not getting any younger. I still think I have what it takes to pitch in high leverage in the back end, so I'm looking for a spot in the land where I've got a chance to get into the postseason and go deep. This is a squad that can do it. I'm hoping that I can help out.”

Young said the Rangers' front office discussed acquiring Robertson at the Trade Deadline last season when they acquired Scherzer, but it ultimately didn't work out. Now, Robertson joins a Rangers' bullpen looking for a bounceback year in the regular season.

Texas finished 24th in MLB in bullpen ERA (4.77) in the regular season, while going just 30-for-63 (47.6 percent) in save opportunities. The unit rebounded during the postseason run, held down by the likes of José Leclerc and Josh Sborz, but Robertson will no doubt provide much more stability than the club saw last year.

“I'm hoping that maybe I can shore up some of those holes that they had last year,” Robertson said. “I mean, obviously they weren't too big because they won the World Series. It’s a great squad and a great lineup and a good group of guys. I'm excited to join in.”

Entering his 15th Major League season, Robertson has 793 regular-season and 42 postseason appearances. He split 2023 between the Mets and Marlins, combining for a 3.03 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.

He struggled after the midseason trade, posting a 9.00 ERA in 10 August appearances for Miami, but ultimately allowed just two runs over his final 11 regular-season appearances.

“I'm just going to be expected to take high-leverage innings whenever they call,” Robertson said of his role. “It is hard to finish games, guys are really good. In this day and age, hitters are really advanced, they have a lot of information on all of these pitchers. We really have to make quality pitches and the defense has to really pick us up a lot of times. It's not easy to finish those games often.

“It's going to be a tough, tough run, but I'm hoping that we can repeat again because I would like to be here and be part of it. Like I said, hopefully I can fill some of the holes and help out here.”

Robertson was 18-for-24 in saves in 2023, which was better than every Texas reliever last season except Will Smith, who went 22-for-27 but lost the closer job down the stretch.

While Leclerc seemingly enters Spring Training leading the conversation at closer after a dominant postseason, manager Bruce Bochy stopped short of saying that would be the case. Kirby Yates also joins Robertson, Leclerc and Sborz as high-leverage options going into the regular season.

Bochy said he’s not going to place any of the four potential closer options in any sort of order for the moment, not wanting to pigeonhole himself so early in camp. But he also noted that Leclerc closed a lot of games last year, especially in the postseason, and will likely do the same this year, whether he has a specific title or not.

“We’ve got some high-leverage guys down there that can help each other out and help give guys days off,” Bochy said. “I’m not going to get into exactly what the pecking order is, because they're all really good relievers with really good resumes. They'll all be used like the ballgame.”

That said, he admitted, life does get easier with a specific closer named.

“I think when we leave here, we'll have a guy that will feel like will get most of this closing opportunities,” Bochy said. “It’s early, but it's going to enable us to keep these guys fresh, because they all want to be out there. They all thrive in that situation. And so it's important that they’re all used in the seventh, eighth and ninth.”