Friday, January 14, 2011

Yankees Close to Signing Soriano

For many of us,  bringing Rafael Soriano to the Bronx seemed like a no-brainer. Why not have the best closer in the majors last year be the set-up man for the best closer of all-time, and form a 1-2 punch to shut down games and give the Yankees their best chance to put other teams away?

For Brian Cashman, the logic hadn't been as simple as that. The question of money--which for the GM is always the question--and how much the Yankees would be willing to pay a reliever who commanded closer-type money, was as relevant a reason to back away from Soriano as as any. Still, the Yankees kept the "contact" with Soriano going; even amidst the unwavering rhetoric from Cashman who stood by his word not to give a would-be reliever a closer-type deal or give up the Yankees no. 1 draft pick. Twenty-four hours ago you would have been able to believe Cashman's words, but now, everything has changed.

As reported by Fox Sports this morning, a source told the Associated Press that the Yankees are indeed close to a deal with Soriano; a 3-year deal worth $35 million with an opt-out clause after one year. Nothing has been finalized yet, of course, as Soriano will have to pass a physical.

What does this mean for the Yankees? First, it eradicates the notion of a 'disappointing" offseason, as Soriano is one of the elite relievers in the majors. He saved 45 of 48 games last year, had an ERA of 1.73 and a SO/BB ration of 4.07.  Obviously, he was just as much the reason for the Rays taking back the Al East at the end of the season as any of their other star players.

Second, not only does Soriano provide some breathing room for the Yankees going into the 8th inning of games, he can also save games if Mariano needs rest. Fanatics may not have to experience that uneasiness of watching  Joba Chamberlain make his run from the bullpen to the mound in the 9th when a game is on the line. In addition, Soriano has the kind of "stuff" that would make him as dominating a set-up man as Phil Hughes was in 2009.
And finally, the Yankees could possibly have their future closer in tow, as there is no way to know right now what Mariano or the team may decide to do at the end of his contract in 2012. Barring any injuries or "pressure" in these next 3 years, Soriano could assume the role at the tender age of 34.

Of course not every aspect of the deal goes into the Yankees favor. The opt-out clause after one-year gives Soriano the option to bail if another team is willing to pay him more money to be their closer, leaving the Yankees with that hole in their bullpen again. You can probably thank Scott Boras for this part of the deal. I'm sure he reminded the Yankees that his star client was willing to give up being a closer to be their set-up man and it would behoove them to give him some breathing room in order to seal the deal. We all know that the market for Soriano closing at this point was thin, but when does logic ever stop Scott Boras?

All-in-all, I give a lot of credit to the Yankees for making this move. Besides preaching "patience," he also vowed to cut deals that made sense and this makes sense for the Yankees. There is still plenty of money available for the team to either make a mid-season trade for a starting pitcher or to pay Andy Pettitte a lucrative amount if he decides to come back.

Follow Rasheeda on twitter: @ra_cooper

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