The move comes as a surprise for the still-excellent hurler, who is wrapping up a four-year, $46MM contract. At the time, only Jonathan Papelbon and B.J. Ryan had secured larger guarantees as relievers. Even in the four years that have followed, only Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon and Wade Davis have landed larger total guarantees.
There’s little in terms of recent precedent for players representing themselves in major negotiations. Huston Street was self-represented when he negotiated his final contract with the Angels, signing for two years and $18MM. Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, meanwhile, reportedly may have negotiated the bulk of his extension with Pittsburgh himself; Vazquez switched representation on multiple occasions in the year preceding that deal, with one player rep telling MLBTR at the time that Vazquez had been with as many as four or five different agencies in the calendar year leading up to his extension.
Digression aside, the 33-year-old Robertson (34 next April) will head into free agency with yet another strong case for a multi-year deal. While he won’t reach the $46MM heights of his most recent contract given his age, Robertson is still fresh off a quality 3.23 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 and a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate in 69 2/3 innings. He kept his ERA south of 3.50 and averaged at least 10.8 punchouts per nine innings in all four seasons of his expiring four-year pact, and his 2017 season — 1.84 ERA, 12.9 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 2.57 FIP, 2.76 xFIP — was nothing short of outstanding.
Robertson’s 92.6 mph average fastball in 2018 was actually a slight bit better than it’s been in recent seasons, though he saw his opponents’ swinging-strike rate, chase rate and hard-contact rate all trend in the wrong direction. Even with those dips, though, there’s little reason to expect anything less than a two-year deal for Robertson at a time when relievers figure to be more coveted than ever before. And given Robertson’s uncanny durability — no fewer than 60 games and 60 2/3 innings pitched in a season since 2010 — teams may well view him as a less-volatile option than several of his peers.