Yankees at the Winter Meetings, Day 2

A significant domino in the Yankees’ offseason plan fell late last night, as David Robertson accepted a four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox — Mr. “Sweet Home Alabama” opting to make it “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Robertson isn’t the highest-paid closer in history, falling shy of the mark still held by Jonathan Papelbon, but he certainly will be well-paid on the South Side. Turning down the Yanks’ $15.3 million qualifying offer seems like it was the right move for Robertson, a home-grown Yankee who now leaves the club with only four remaining members from the ’09 World Series club.

As news of Robertson’s deal moved through the hotel lobby last night, my thoughts flashed back to the final game of the season at Fenway Park, when I asked Robertson if he’d considered the chance that he just took off a Yankees uniform for the final time. I thought there might have been some sentimentality involved for him during those last few innings in the bullpen, but I was wrong.

“Yeah, I’m not going to discuss that at all,” he replied. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ll just see how things play out.”

So, this is how it played out — the Yankees had expressed some hope of re-signing Robertson early in the free agent period, tossing him verbal bouquets about his performance in taking over Mariano Rivera’s old job, but that optimism had seemed to wane in recent days. General manager Brian Cashman’s public commentary regarding Robertson essentially had reduced to, “We’ll see.”

In New York’s eyes, they obtained some insurance for Robertson’s possible departure by inking Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million contract late last week, and Dellin Betances is coming back from a dominant All-Star season. There is also some appeal to the compensation pick that the Yanks now have in the 2015 Draft.

Jack Curry of the YES Network offers this detail:

So Robertson moves on, leaving the Yankees with a question mark at the closer spot. Miller and Betances would be the likeliest in-house fits, unless the Yanks sign a free agent like Jason Grilli or Sergio Romo, or can trigger a trade. As we wrote in last night’s wrap, pitching is the Yanks’ focus here at the Winter Meetings, though Chase Headley is still available and there have been rumblings that he could pick a team by Thursday.

Speaking of picking a team, getting that whole Jon Lester logjam cleared up might move a few other things along, though the Yanks don’t necessarily view it that way. The Yankees still haven’t been definitively connected to the “big three” of Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields, unless we count a few puffs of smoke like this:

Last week, a few of the MLB.com reporters were asked to rate the chances of Lester coming to certain teams on a scale of 1-10, where one was near-impossible and 10 was a mortal lock. I put down ‘4’ for the Yankees, even with the absence of any solid link between them — hey, it was only a few years ago that Cashman slipped out the back door of the Bellagio and slapped $161 million on CC Sabathia’s Vallejo, Calif. doorstep.

The Yanks like to pull off those kinds of stealth moves if they can. The talk has been about waiting for guys like Brandon McCarthy, and that interest does seem sincere. (The Pirates re-signing Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39 million deal provides a guide for McCarthy’s next contract.) Still… until we see any of the bigger arms holding another team’s hat, I’d prefer to leave the light on for a stunner.

Today should be a busy day at the Winter Meetings — Cashman is expected to meet the media at some point, and Joe Girardi is scheduled to hold his manager availability session at 6:30 p.m. ET. We’ll have more thoughts and updates here and on yankees.com later in the day.

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