The Rangers announced the signing of reliever David Robertson to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2025. The right-hander, who is self-represented, is reportedly guaranteed $11.5MM. He’ll make just $5MM in 2024 and is guaranteed the $1.5MM buyout on the option, which is valued at $7MM. The final $5MM is deferred, with $1MM paid annually between 2027-31.
Robertson split the 2023 campaign between a pair of NL East clubs. He signed a one-year, $10MM pact with the Mets. Initially tabbed as a setup man, he was pushed into the ninth inning by the Edwin Díaz injury. Robertson’s time in Queens ended up briefer than he or the team envisioned because the club quickly fell out of contention. That wasn’t any fault of his, as Robertson had an excellent 40-game run as a Met.
He tossed 44 innings with a 2.05 ERA, striking out nearly 28% of opposing hitters. For a second straight summer, Robertson was one of the better rental relievers at the deadline. New York flipped him to the Marlins for a pair of low minors prospects (Marco Vargas and Ronald Hernandez).
While Miami surprisingly stayed in contention and secured a Wild Card berth, Robertson wasn’t immediately effective. He had a tough first month in South Florida, allowing 13 runs (10 earned) with six walks and 10 strikeouts over 10 innings in August. Miami took him out of the closer’s role towards the end of that month. Robertson responded with a much better September, striking out 19 while allowing only two runs over his final 10 1/3 frames.
Despite the blip early in the second half, the former All-Star had another productive year. He finished the season with a 3.03 earned run average through 65 1/3 innings. Robertson fanned an above-average 29% of batters faced against a manageable 9.3% walk rate. He missed bats on a solid 12.6% of his overall offerings.
The Rangers have made no secret of their desire to add to the bullpen. Texas had been among the perceived frontrunners for Héctor Neris, arguably the top unsigned relief pitcher. They were also linked to Ryan Brasier a couple weeks ago. Robertson, who turns 39 in April, is available on a one-year pact. Neris and Brasier each have a shot at two years, with Neris likely to top the overall guarantee that Robertson secured.
Robertson is the second free agent bullpen acquisition of the offseason for GM Chris Young and his front office. The Rangers inked Kirby Yates to a $4.5MM deal during the Winter Meetings. Texas lost a trio of bullpen arms to free agency. Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Chris Stratton have all landed elsewhere. That left the relief group as the shakiest part of the defending champions’ roster. Robertson and Yates join Josh Sborz as bridge options to closer José Leclerc. Texas could still stand to add a left-hander after Brock Burke turned in a middling 2023 season.
Roster Resource projected their 2024 payroll around $210MM before the Robertson signing. He’ll push that to roughly $215MM. More importantly, the deal moves them into luxury tax territory. Texas was at roughly $231MM in CBT obligations before this signing. While the deferrals marginally reduce the contract’s net present value, the contract’s tax hit for next season is much closer to the $11.5MM overall guarantee than it is to next year’s $5MM salary.
Their CBT number jumps past the $240MM mark, pushing above the $237MM base threshold. Texas surpassed the CBT threshold last season, so they’ll pay escalating penalties for a second consecutive year of payments. The Rangers are taxed at a 32% rate on spending between $237MM and $257MM.
The tax for the Robertson signing is fairly modest. It’ll land in the $2MM range. The more significant impact could be on future tax obligations incurred on any further acquisitions. They’ve had a fairly quiet offseason amidst uncertainty about their broadcasting deal with Diamond Sports Group, but they’re bracing for another showdown with the Astros at the top of the AL West.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post first reported the Rangers had interest in Robertson. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the Rangers and Robertson had agreed to a one-year deal in the $11-12MM range. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand was first to report the $11.5MM guarantee, the mutual option, and the salary breakdown.
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