- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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Since this is Thanksgiving, it seems highly appropriate to talk about a man to whom everyone has been giving thanks all year.
From opponents to fans to teammates and even the media, Mariano Rivera has been honored every which way in 2013. But he is not coming back for 2014 -- and the Yankees will be forced to figure out a new way to end games.
Rivera is replaceable. No, not in terms of sustained greatness. His longevity as the best closer ever is not what the Yankees are trying to replicate. What they need to do is find someone who can give them 44 saves in 51 chances, like Rivera did in 2013. In 2012, Rafael Soriano already proved it is possible for one year, untucking 42 times in 46 tries.
So let's look at the candidates to replace Mo:
1. David Robertson: Internally, there is the belief D-Rob could do the job as the closer. The key word there is "could," not would. Depending on the financial make-up of the offseason, Robertson could go into spring training as the clear favorite.
Now, some might point to Robertson looking shaky as the closer in the aftermath of Rivera's injury in 2012. While Robertson had a scary save and then blew a game before hurting himself and losing the role to Soriano, it is unfair to hold that against him. In 1997, Rivera blew three of his first six chances. The Yankees stuck with him and it sort of worked out, right?
Even though it doesn't make logical sense, the ninth is different than the eighth. The Yankees can't be sure Robertson is built for the ninth unless they give him the chance. They just might.
2. Joe Nathan: Nathan, 39, has been a successful closer for a long time. A local guy with his Stony Brook, N.Y., connections, it would be a nice story if he came to the Bronx to replace Rivera. In 2013, he saved 43 of 46 games. His ERA was just 1.39.
Yes, Yankees fans have seen him melt down in the playoffs, but if the Bombers eventually decide to invest in the back-end of the bullpen, combining Robertson with Nathan could maintain a strength for the club. Nathan won't be cheap. He made $9 million in 2013. Still, despite the expenditure, at least the Yankees will be getting younger in the spot.
3. Grant Balfour: Balfour had a very good season in Oakland as the closer, but is he better than Robertson? To me, if Balfour comes in as the closer, Robertson taking his job will be a possibility throughout the season.
Balfour, 35, had 38 saves and blew just three in 2013, but he only earned 34 saves in his entire career before that. Balfour made $4.5 million. I don't really see him as a fit unless he and Robertson are battling for the closer role.
4. Fernando Rodney: He was great two years ago. Not so much this past season. It would be fun to have him on the team so everyone can make a big deal about his hat and histrionics. I don't see him either.
5. Jesse Crain: Maybe use him for the eighth inning and Robertson takes the ninth.
6. Joba Chamberlain: OK, OK, you have read enough. Make your comments known down below and hopefully you will close out today with some pumpkin pie.
QUESTION: Who should replace Mo?
Since this is Thanksgiving, it seems highly appropriate to talk about a man to whom everyone has been giving thanks all year.From opponents to fans to teammates and even the media, Mariano Rivera has been honored every which way in 2013.