Much like the Houston Astros with Jose Quintana, the Washington Nationals have looked like a great fit for David Robertson all winter long. They lost Mark Melancon to free agency, and tried to replace him by making a competitive bid for Kenley Jansen, which indicated 1) a desire for a proven closer, and 2) some money toward that end.
Robertson fits the first criterion, although he’s coming off a rocky season. He also should be affordable under a budget that can accommodate Jansen. He’s making two years and $25 million, which, while not cheap, is less than half of the commitment Jansen, Melancon and Aroldis Chapman earned in free agency.
Robertson blew seven saves on the season and battled a knee injury during the second half. That gives the Nationals fair ground to ask for a lower price, whether in terms of prospects or payroll impact. According to Ken Rosenthal, though, the Nationals have been asking for both.
In a critical assessment of Washington’s ownership, Rosenthal reports that general manager Mike Rizzo has been forced to make unreasonable demands by an ownership that’s surprisingly stingy, even after accounting for the team’s unfavorable territory fight with the Baltimore Orioles.
That might change soon; the Nats continue to discuss a trade with the White Sox for closer David Robertson, according to major-league sources. Robertson is owed $12 million this season and $13 million next season, creating an all-too-typical Nats obstacle. The team does not want to absorb Robertson’s entire obligation, and does not want to move additional prospects after parting with three young pitchers for Eaton, sources say.
For Washington owner Ted Lerner’s sake, I’m hoping by “additional prospects,” Rosenthal means capital-p Prospects like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, both of whom Rizzo sent to the Sox in the Adam Eaton deal. Victor Robles fits that description of the ones still in Washington’s system, and probably Erick Fedde, too. In case you were wondering, here are Washington’s top prospects according to:
If “prospects” applies to any rankable guy — even ones that are in the bottom half of the top-10 list of a bottom-third system -- then any conversation should end pretty quickly.
Then again, that’d explain why the reported haggling over Robertson is entering its third month. Taking only the White Sox into consideration, they should be approachable and amenable to a deal. A high-priced closer on a rebuilding team doesn’t serve much of a purpose, and the White Sox could use an open bullpen spot to comfortably accommodate a qualified out-of-options pitcher like Michael Ynoa, then throw the save opportunities to Nate Jones. Moreover, the White Sox have only cut salary this offseason, so they have the flexibility to include some cash in order to get a preferred prospect.
The White Sox’ ability to absorb Robertson’s salary while hoping he comes back stronger from knee surgery is what gives them a backbone in negotiating, but it shouldn’t be a real impediment to getting a deal done. Based on Rosenthal’s reporting, it makes sense that the bigger obstacles are on Washington’s side.