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WHAT IF ... Mariano Rivera had retired after 2012?

12/20/2013 1:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

If Mariano Rivera had retired in 2012, we never would have gotten this moment.(AP)
Over the past week, the YESNetwork.com staff has debated a series of What If? scenarios for the Yankees, ranging from the very old (Derek Jeter and the 1992 Draft) to the kind of old (Robinson Cano and the A-Rod trade) to the very new (the 2013 seasons of Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson).

So, to round out the series, Doug Williams and I decided to both give our take on a scenario that is a combo of both old and new, a little less recent than Granderson and Hughes but on the scope of Cano and Jeter: What If Mariano Rivera hadn’t come back for 2013?

In asking that question, we debated several means to the end; would it be a what if assuming Rivera still gets hurt? Would we erase that one moment in history last May and give him a full-season swan song, and if so, how does that impact the future? Or would there be something else involved entirely?

Sure, Rivera retired after last season anyway so we’re kind of already seeing what life without Mo is like, but things could have been a lot different…and so after agreeing that Rivera never would have signed anywhere else, we investigated both of the other possibilities. Here’s my take:

If Rivera doesn’t get hurt, finishes 2012 and then calls it quits, the Yankees are still in the same boat they are today, only with a different road. When he tore his ACL, Mo was on pace for 35 to 40 saves and an ERA in the low 2’s – basically, the season he had in 2013 – and with him, you can pencil that in; Rafael Soriano, meanwhile, would’ve probably had a season similar to if not slightly better than 2011, and instead of opting out of his contract, he would’ve come back in to be the closer in 2013, where we project he’d have had a 2013 very similar to his 2012 (42 saves, 2.26 ERA, 9.2 K/9) and earned a contract similar to if not richer than the two-year, $28 million deal that he got from Washington last winter.

Given the $189 million payroll goal and the Yankees’ methodology of not allocating a lot of resources to the bullpen yet this winter, I personally don’t think that deal would have come from the Bronx, meaning Soriano would still be elsewhere and this offseason would have still had the same bullpen implications for the Yankees.

On the other hand, if Rivera simply never returned from injury, I don’t think David Robertson would have necessarily been the closer. Of guys already on the roster, Joba Chamberlain and maybe even Phil Hughes still had bullpen value, and there were a lot of late-inning guys available to take their (or Robertson’s) spots; beyond that, Jonathan Broxton, who had 27 saves between the Royals and Reds in 2012, was available on the free agent market, as were a handful of guys with closing experience that could have been one-year fliers (like a rehabbing Ryan Madson, an aging Brian Fuentes or a deposed former closer like Francisco Rodriguez) the Yankees could have signed to go for a “mix-and-match” approach that would prevent a single someone from having to “replace” Rivera right away.

Either way, though, Rivera not coming back for 2013 would’ve robbed the world of his epic retirement tour and two outstanding “Hollywood ending” moments, the fitting final farewell day at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 22 and then of course the moment after his final pitch four days later.

And that, win, lose, or draw, was absolutely worth it.

As for Doug Williams’ take, well, you can click here to read it.

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