The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees extends beyond the field of play. This winter, it may cause Boston to sign two of New York’s top relievers.
Back in October, Nathan Eovaldi was the former Yankee helping the Red Sox win a World Series title. Next year, it’s possible both David Robertson and Zach Britton can fill that role for Boston.
Reports emanating from New York claim the Red Sox are keeping close tabs on both relievers. Each player was instrumental in the Yankees’ run to the postseason in 2018. Brian Cashman and company have interest in re-signing both players, but neither is the team’s top priority at the moment.
Robertson’s strong desire to pitch close to home in 2019 puts the Red Sox in a great negotiating position. He currently resides in Rhode Island which makes Boston the closest Major League franchise available to him. New York isn’t too far away to retain his services, but it’s very likely Boston can get a deal done with Robertson with a meaningful hometown discount.
Britton, in sharp contrast, appears willing to go anywhere. He will almost certainly sign with the team willing to offer him the biggest contract. The real question with the talented southpaw is whether or not he’s determined to be a closer again next season. The Yankees would like to sign him as insurance against Aroldis Chapman’s injury history, but they can’t guarantee Britton he’ll be their ninth inning guy.
Depending on what happens with Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox may be willing to make him that promise. That might be a bit of a gamble though. Britton showed flashes of the dominant form he displayed in 2016 after arriving in the Bronx last year, but he wasn’t very consistent fo the Yankees. It’s probable he’ll never get back to the electric form that made him a legitimate Cy Young candidate three years ago. That doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective closer, but it may mean he won’t ever be an overpowering pitcher again.
Even so, the Red Sox would love to sign Robertson and Britton to strengthen their bullpen and weaken the options available to Aaron Boone next year. If one or both guys do leave the Bronx, New York will need to dip into the free agency market to acquire suitable replacements.
Andrew Miller and Adam Ottavino would be at the top of Cashman’s shopping list. Ottavino was outstanding for the Rockies last season and maintains a home in Manhattan. Signing with the Yankees would be a homecoming for the 33-year-old right hander. He doesn’t have a strong track record of success, but he was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018.
Miller battled injuries in Cleveland last year, but the Yankees are well-aware of just how good he can be when he’s right. Cashman and company won’t pay a huge price for Miller given his struggles last season, but they could take a gamble on the overpowering lefty if the price is right.
Bullpen arms may not be getting a ton of press at the moment, but who the Red Sox and Yankees sign to fill out their bullpens this winter will go a long way towards determining the AL East race next season. Look for some serious gamesmanship between the rival front offices before the dust settles.