Craig Kimbrel likely loses suitor as Phillies sign reliever David Robertson

The stalwart righty in the Yankees bullpen got a two-year deal from eager-to-spend Philadelphia.

David Robertson is headed to the National League for the first time in his career, and away from a Red Sox team he routinely pitched well against.
David Robertson is headed to the National League for the first time in his career, and away from a Red Sox team he routinely pitched well against. –AP Photo

The ownership of the Philadelphia Phillies went into the winter “expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” They exercised a little restraint on Thursday to fill out their relief corps.

All but certainly leaving Craig Kimbrel with one less potential suitor.

Reliever David Robertson agreed to a $23 million, two-year contact, with Philadelphia. Robertson gets $10 million this year and $11 million in 2020, and the Phillies have a $12 million option for 2021 with a $2 million buyout.

The 33-year-old right-hander went 8-3 with a 3.23 ERA and five saves in 69 games last season for the New York Yankees. Robertson spent parts of nine seasons in the majors with the Yankees, who selected him in the 17th round of the 2006 amateur draft, but left after the 2014 season to sign a $46 million, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox. Chicago traded him back to New York in July 2017.

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“I had a great time playing in New York. They are an excellent organization,” Robertson said, adding he spoke to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman about returning. “New York will always hold a special place in my heart. It was just time for me to go someplace else.”

An 11-year veteran and a 2011 All-Star, Robertson — who fired his agent in October and represented himself as a free agent — has appeared in at least 60 games in nine-straight seasons and was arguably the No. 2 reliever available on the free-agent market alongside Jeurys Familia (who stayed with the Mets on a three-year, $30 million deal), Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino. While the Red Sox were interested in Robertson, who lives in Rhode Island and made clear he sought to stay in the northeast, they felt unlikely to land him.

Robertson could compete for the closer’s role in Philadelphia, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, but initial reports from Philly.com’s Scott Lauber are that the team will “use him whenever the game is on the line, regardless of inning.”

Seranthony Dominguez led the Phillies with just 16 saves last season, as Gabe Kapler’s team used 21 different relievers — tied for fifth most in the majors — to finish games.

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As for what the Robertson signing means for Kimbrel, who reportedly has come off his initial demands of six years and nine figures, WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports the 30-year-old’s market appears down to the Red Sox and Atlanta, where he spent the first five years of his career. Boston seems willing to sit out the relief market until Kimbrel makes his choice.

Thursday’s news that a source close to Manny Machado says he’s leaning toward signing with the Chicago White Sox, with USA Today reporting he’s received a formal contract offer, at least suggests that one of the largest free-agent dominoes (alongside Bryce Harper) may be close to falling. That should clarify the market for everyone else, Kimbrel included.

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The Robertson deal was first reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.