His injury is awful, but the Yankees will be OK without Mariano Rivera

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Losing Mariano Rivera for the year and possibly forever is horrible for Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans alike. He is easily the best relief pitcher of all time and, as I sit here right now, I am struggling to think of any player in the past 20 years who is as universally respected and admired as Rivera. Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and all of those other Yankees of their time annoyed everyone at least once, right?  But Rivera comes in and shuts your team down and all you could ever really do is tip your cap and wish like hell he played for your local nine.

But for as big a loss this is mentally, it is possible to overstate what his loss means in purely baseball terms.  Indeed, it is probable that as the day is filled with commentary about Rivera’s injury, that baseball impact will be overstated.  Why?  Because we always overstate how much value a closer brings to a team in empirical terms.

Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible tackled that this morning.  And, for as big a Yankees fan as he is, he is right to note that no matter how great Rivera has been, his contribution is nonetheless a smaller one, in purely baseball terms, than most other players on that team.  Why?  Because he only pitches about four percent of the Yankees’ total innings each year. And a quarter of those innings are not particularly high-leverage ones, given that he will often come in with a three-run lead.  Goldman:

That’s Rivera’s total contribution that actually mattered—roughly three percent of the team’s total innings … No matter how beloved Mariano Rivera is (not least by me), no matter how great he has been at what he does, if a team can’t find a way to reassign 39 innings out of 1450, it wasn’t going to win anyway.

Yes, you can talk about how the ninth inning is more important than the others (it’s not true, but you can talk about it).  You can talk about the psychological comfort having Rivera brings. You can talk about his intangibles and his leadership and all of that. And, obviously, you can be devastated that we may never again get to see the greatest reliever of all time ply his trade ever again.  Those things are all real and all contribute to the misery that is inherent in the loss of Mariano Rivera.

But when it comes to things that can actually be measured — innings pitched and tangible contributions to baseball victories — Rivera’s contribution is nowhere near that of other players, and the Yankees can and should be able to survive it.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.