New York Yankees free-agent closer David Robertson turned down the chance to have the highest closer salary for one season in baseball history. Now he has his eyes on the largest contract ever given to a reliever.
Robertson is looking for "Papelbon money" in initial talks with teams, a baseball official with knowledge of the discussions told ESPNNewYork.com.
In 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to the richest overall reliever contract, a four-year, $50 million deal. If Papelbon finishes 15 games in 2015, his contract will vest for a fifth year at $13 million more, making it a total of five years and $63 million.
If Robertson and his agent, Scott Leventhal, can persuade one team to offer "Papelbon money," it is doubtful the Yankees would match. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is not a big believer in paying relievers not named Mariano Rivera such large amounts on a multiyear deal.
On Wednesday at the GM meetings in Phoenix, Cashman declined to answer if he would pay "Papelbon money" to Robertson. Cashman did confirm he met with Leventhal on Tuesday.
"I wouldn't say," Cashman said when asked if Leventhal asked for contract similar to Papelbon. "Clearly, as a free agent, he is going to maximize his value, period, whatever that turns out to be, but I wouldn't characterize it other than the fact to say he is helluva pitcher that did it in the toughest environment after the greatest player of all-time and he did it with ease. I would suspect that would command top dollar."
Rivera earned the largest reliever salary for one season when he made $15 million on four different occasions toward the end of his career.
Robertson could have snatched that title from the man he replaced if he had accepted a $15.3 million qualifying offer earlier this week. He declined, which means the Yankees would receive a draft pick as compensation if he leaves.
Leventhal did not immediately respond to a text seeking comment.
Robertson, who will turn 30 in April, just completed his first year as a closer. He finished the season 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA, converting 39 saves in 44 opportunities.
The Yankees are interested in re-signing Robertson to a multiyear deal, but they do have an internal closer option if Robertson were to sign elsewhere. Dellin Betances, 26, was the superior reliever to Robertson in 2014, earning a spot on the All-Star team and finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.