NEW YORK — The last time David Robertson pitched for a Chicago team against the Yankees, he wound up getting traded to New York three weeks later.
So after logging that scoreless inning Friday in the Bronx for the Cubs?
Yeah, we know. So does he.
Whether it happens in three weeks and/or whether it’s back to the Yankees, it’s going to happen again with Robertson, somewhere before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. That is all but assured.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” said Robertson, who’s quietly putting together a dominant season after missing all but a handful of games the last three years coming back from an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery.
“You get older, and you’re a team that’s not quite living up to potential … That’s just part of it,” he said. “You know guys are going to get moved around and end up in different roles with different teams and things happen.”
Talking before heading to New York last week, Robertson said he held out hope for a Cubs heater and 11th-hour stay of deadline purge.
But 72 miles of Yankees home runs and a lopsided sweep later, hope sounded a lot more like a few other four-letter words as the Cubs’ low-water mark stretched to 13 games under .500 — with the only heaters in play getting hit out of play by the other guys.
It’s not what Robertson had in mind when he signed his one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Cubs in March.
“I was just looking for a good opportunity, a good opportunity to mix back in to the bullpen,” he said. “I didn’t really care if it was the ninth inning or the eighth or the seventh. I just wanted to kind of do what I’d been doing in the past. I didn’t want to go out on an injury.”
Robertson, whose rehab included pitching in the Olympics, returned to the majors with the Rays late last year and made three playoff appearances.
“I was still trying to figure out things throwing wise,” he said. “Everything wasn’t quite up to speed. My arm wasn’t quite where it is now. I definitely feel much better this season.”
The 1.59 ERA, high strikeout rate (12.7 per nine) and low WHIP (0.971) at age 37 all say he’s right.
Combined with his 7-for-9 performance in save chances, it all says he’s maybe the Cubs top trade chip as they position for a second straight selloff in the coming weeks.
For Robertson, it may not have been the plan when he signed. But the all-but-inevitable trade this summer figures to put the 2009 Yankees champion back in a pennant race, if not at the top of one.
“I’d love another chance at a World Series ring,” he said. “Everybody loves to go to the playoffs. That’s the most exciting part of baseball.”
Meanwhile he moves to the top of this week’s Trade Deadline Power Ranking of Cubs trade chips:
1. David Robertson (last week: 3) — Did we mention “scoreless inning in the Bronx”? That was a rarity for Cubs pitchers over the weekend against Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, et al. And to do it in the biggest media center in the sport, against a big-market juggernaut certain to be shopping for bullpen additions raised Robertson’s profile, if not his value, even since last week.
2. Willson Contreras (last week: 2) — It wasn’t statistically the big week at the plate Contreras has grown accustomed to this year. But it was a huge week for his peace of mind — and his measurable value — because he avoided arbitration in the hours before a scheduled Thursday hearing against the team.
He winds up making $9.625 million for this season, his last before free agency, after settling with the team at the midpoint of the arb figures the sides filed. Because Contreras had a strong case that seemed to favor winning the $10.25 million salary he sought — theoretically, leaving $625,000 on the table and making a trade for him an even better value.
The only reason he drops a spot this week: The Athletic reports that the Astros like their catching situation despite starter Martin Maldonado's weak hitting, which would mean one less team in the market for the top-hitting catcher in the game.
3. Ian Happ (last week: 3) — If not for the strong holds on the top two spots by Robertson and Contreras, Happ would have been able to make a case for either spot above him after his lonely, lofty performance at the plate for anyone in a Cubs uniform the past few days. After reaching base twice in Friday’s 13-inning loss, most of Happ’s production came in 18-4 loss Sunday — when he homered in the first for the Cubs’ only Cubs lead since Tuesday, then added a triple, walk and single.
He has an ,844 OPS, has been perhaps the Cubs’ most consistent hitter all season, might be a candidate for a first All-Star selection and has a year left of club control after this year.
4. Mychal Givens (last week: 4) — The veteran setup man holds his position in the rankings for the same reason Robertson moved up a spot: a scoreless inning at Yankee Stadium (in his only appearance of the week). A week after debuting in the top five, the right-hander retired Matt Carpenter, DJ LeMahieu and Judge in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game Friday to get the ball to Robertson (and his ERA down to 3.09).
5. Chris Martin (last week: NR) — Sensing a theme yet? Martin had another one of those scoreless innings Friday in his return from missing two weeks on the bereavement list. The right-hander, who pitched in last year’s World Series, is one of manager David Ross’ more trusted arms, among the appearance leaders before his absence (3.71 ERA).
Dropped out: Andrelton Simmons (last week: 5).