The Phillies have made a notable addition to their bullpen, reportedly acquiring David Robertson of the Cubs. Pitching prospect Ben Brown returns to Chicago in return.
Robertson was arguably the best bullpen arm available this summer. The veteran signed a $3.5 million one-year deal with Chicago during Spring Training. He quickly emerged as the club’s primary poet, saving 14 games during his 36 appearances. Robertson pitched 40 1/3 innings of 2.23 ERA ball, striking out over 30% of opponents while inducing ground balls with an above average clip of 48.3%. The 37-year-old has spent a few times more than you’d like (11.5%), but Robertson’s combination of cutters and curveballs can easily take on opponents. He generates swinging attacks at a strong 13.7% of his supply, which is not far from the rates of his best days with the Yankees and White Sox.
Robertson, a former All-Star, was a durable and atypical consistent reliever for most of his time in New York and on the south side of Chicago. That led to a two-year deal with the Phils throughout the 2019-20 season, but Robertson’s first stint in Philadelphia didn’t go as hoped, though no fault of his own. Robertson blew his elbow just seven games into that deal. He missed the rest of 2019 and ’20 to recover and returned with the Rays midway through the 2021 season. Since returning to health, Robertson has an ERA of 2.75 to 52 1/3 frames. The Phils will fire at him one more time to cement the mix midway through the late innings.
Robertson will be a free agent by the end of the year. In addition to his base salary, he is well on track to hit all of his incentives (including a $100K trading bonus), which would bring his total salary to $5.1MM. Still, for a pitcher with his track record, that’s a reasonable price to pay. The Phils bullpen has been solid lately, but the club has long had trouble finding consistent results at the back.
In exchange for their cheap dice roll on Robertson, the Cubs recouped half a season of excellent work, eventually turning him into a longer-term addition to the organization. Brown, 22, was a 33rd round pick in 2017. The 6’6″ pitcher had a breakthrough in the 2022 season, throwing to a 3.08 ERA through 73 innings at High-A. He has fueled 35.4% of opponents at a running speed of 7.7%. Baseball America recently ranked him as the #7 prospect in the Philadelphia system, praising his plus fastball-slider combination, but suggesting that sporadic checkups could eventually push him into a bullpen role. Brown must be added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster this winter to avoid being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
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