The bullpen needs a good reliever who can be asked to take on high-leverage innings. David Bednar has the 9th inning on lockdown, and the likes of Colin Holderman, Ryan Borcuki, Dauri Moreta, and rookie Carmen Mlodzinski will be in the running for the set-up men roles. But it would certainly help if the Pirates got another reliable, higher-leverage reliever, especially since it doesn’t look like youngsters Jose Hernandez and Colin Selby looked like they needed a few more minutes in the oven this year.
If that’s the case, then the Pirates should look into right-hander David Robertson. Robertson is the oldest relief pitcher in baseball. At 38 years young (will turn 39 on April 9th), the veteran righty is still going strong, and looks to continue to be a force out of the bullpen going into the 2024 campaign, his 16th big league season.
Robertson pitched to a 2.05 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.00 WHIP with the New York Mets. This included a 27.9% strikeout rate, 7.6% walk rate, and 1.02 HR/9. Robertson’s quality results got him attention on the trade market around the deadline and was shipped to the Miami Marlins, where it looks like he struggled, but just on the surface.
The right-hander’s numbers in Miami aren’t good looking, with a 5.06 ERA, and 1.59 WHIP, albeit a solid 3.49 FIP. He struck out more batters with a 30.9% strikeout rate and his HR/9 dipped to 0.84, but his walk rate shot up to 12.4%. However, a slightly deeper dive reveals that Robertson only really struggled in the month of August.
Robertson allowed ten earned runs in ten innings during the month of August. He allowed two home runs, as well as six walks during this month. However, after struggling horribly in August, as he pitched 10.1 more innings in September, allowing just two earned runs, no homers, walking six, but striking out 19. Robertson’s ERA on the season is 3.03, but his ERA outside of August is 1.95, and it’s also the only month Robertson’s ERA rose above 3.10.
While Robertson is aging, he’s aging like fine wine. He is throwing harder than he ever has before with more spin than in the past. Robertson sat 93.3 MPH with his cutter, the fastest he’s ever thrown it. His slider is sitting at 85 MPH with 2762 RPM, both of which are career bests. His curveball is the only pitch he didn’t post career-best metrics with, but in terms of spin and velo, it is the second-highest year in both regards.
The Pirates need to bring in at least one good higher-leverage relief pitcher. A late-inning combination of Bednar, Mlodzinski, Holderman, Borucki, and Lopez could be one of the best in the league, and the second coming of the Pirates’ Shark Tank. Robertson can handle both a 7th/8th inning set-up role, but also close games out when asked to.