White Sox closer David Robertson underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a damaged meniscus in his left knee which plagued him for a portion of the 2016 season, reports MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. The White Sox expect Robertson to be at full strength come Spring Training 2017, Merkin adds.
Robertson, 32 next April, pitched to a 3.47 ERA in 62 1/3 innings this year in the second season of a four-year, $46MM pact inked at the 2014 Winter Meetings. That marks the second straight season with a mid-3.00s ERA for Robertson, which likely falls shy of the White Sox’ expectations upon signing him, though his strikeout rate remains excellent and his ground-ball rate bounced back in 2016 after a sudden drop-off in 2015. Robertson’s chief problem this past season was that his control eluded him; his 4.6 BB/9 rate was the highest its been since 2011, when he had only just begun to establish himself as one of the American League’s premier relievers.
It’s not known to what extent the meniscus damage impacted Robertson’s 2016 performance, but it didn’t appear to be significant enough to deter him from taking the hill with regularity over the season’s final months, and he performed quite well down the stretch. Robertson logged a 1.64 ERA with 26 strikeouts against 11 walks in his final 22 innings on the season. The strong finish and the seemingly minor nature of the procedure bode well for his 2017 status.
As Merkin notes, Robertson could potentially be a trade chip this offseason if the White Sox do ultimately decide to sell off veteran assets rather than make another run at contending. However, with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson all under control for another three seasons or more, there’s plenty of reason for the Sox to continue their attempt to put a winning product on the field. Any of their most frequently cited trade assets — namely Sale and Quintana, but also Robertson to a lesser extent — should still be marketable next summer or next winter. Additionally, outside of the Indians, the AL Central doesn’t look especially imposing at the moment. The GMs of both the Tigers and Royals have suggested that their teams will scale back the payroll this offseason, and the Twins finished the 2016 season with baseball’s worst record.
Nonetheless, if the Sox do look to shed some veterans in either a partial or total tear-down this winter, Robertson’s operation doesn’t seem serious enough that it would do any major damage to his trade value. He’d be one of many appealing late-inning options for interested parties, as the free-agent market features the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, while the trade market could see names like Wade Davis or Francisco Rodriguez added to the list of available relievers.