You never want to rush one of the greatest players in a franchise's history to make a decision on his future, but Mariano Rivera must decide quickly in order to help the New York Yankees messy bullpen situation.
Rivera seemed certain to be returning shortly after tearing his ACL last May, but now the 42-year-old isn't so sure he'll return next season. That has left the Bombers stuck in neutral for the moment.
The team's 2012 closer and Rivera replacement, Rafael Soriano, has already opted out of his deal after completing an impressive season in the Bronx with 42 saves in 46 chances. If there is anyone to take the reins from Rivera and carry this team moving forward, it is Soriano.
It was unimaginable not to have Rivera pitching the ninth for the Yanks last season, but Soriano did a great job helping fans forget all that.
However, Soriano won't last long on the market and will be highly coveted by teams around the league looking for a closer. There is no doubt a team out there willing to give Sori the multi-year deal he's seeking, especially after his immense success in a such a tough market.
For those of you who think Soriano will just sign with the team if the money is right, that couldn't be further from the truth. Sori wants to be a closer and unless the Yanks can guarantee him that spot, he'll be moving on.
If the Yankees want to secure their bullpen for next season, they need an answer from Rivera as soon as possible. The Bombers worst-case scenario would be for The Sandman to tell them he's going to retire later rather than sooner, and in the process Soriano goes and signs with another team.
That would leave standout reliever, David Robertson, as the team's sole legit candidate to close out games. While Robertson might seem ready—and that isn't even certain—the Yanks wouldn't have much beyond D-Rob.
Joba Chamberlain will no doubt return next season, but after an up-and-down campaign, there's no telling what the Yanks will get out of him. David Aardsma will be "back" next season, but he's coming off a full season in the trainer's room; clearly he is no certainty despite some past success.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of question marks in New York's 'pen if all goes wrong and the Yanks lose out on both Rivera and Soriano. Free agency would be the last viable option to find a replacement, but nobody on the free-agent market will be as good as either of the Yanks' potential options at closer.
What should be the timeline for Rivera's retirement decision?
This is a very sensitive subject because the Yanks and general manager Brian Cashman don't want to rush Rivera out the door or push him aside before he's ready to make his decision, but Mo must realize the team is in quite the predicament at the moment.
Rivera has always done great things for this organization. His last great move will either be returning for another season, or moving aside fast enough for the Bombers to plan and make moves accordingly to fill the void left by Rivera's retirement.