Mariano Rivera will return to the Yankees after tearing his ACL in May and missing most of the season, but he will be 43 and coming off major surgery. Whether he will be the Mariano Rivera of the past is anything but certain and the Yankees need to be prepared if he is not.
Rafael Soriano, who filled in for Rivera this year and was the Yankees' best relief pitcher, exercised an opt-out clause in his contract making him a free agent, and Yankees president Randy Levine indicated that Soriano was looking for a four-year, $60 million deal. It's highly unlikely that the Yankees would give that kind of money to a pitcher who would be returning to a setup role for at least one more year, so Soriano will likely be pitching elsewhere in 2013.
This will leave the Yankees looking for a setup man who can fill in at closer in case Rivera is injured or ineffective and they don't want to give the job to Robertson.
Here are five free-agent options the Yankees should look at:
Affeldt has won two World Series in the last three years with the Giants and is ready to cash in during free agency this year.
As a setup man in 2012, Affeldt threw 63.1 innings in 67 games. He surrendered just 57 hits and had 2.70 ERA.
At 33 years old, Affeldt is unlikely to be signed to be a closer of the future, but he's experienced and consistent enough that there would be little worry about him having difficulty adjusting back to the American League.
While Affeldt is a lefty, righties had just a .656 OPS against him in 2012 (compared to .621 by lefties), so that's not a concern either.
Mike Adams is another veteran reliever who the Yankees could rely on to provide stability at the back of the bullpen.
The 34-year-old has been setting up for the Rangers for the last season and a half and has done so quite effectively. This past season he pitched to a 3.27 ERA in 52.1 innings and that was the highest since his rookie year.
Adams may be a bit more expensive than Affeldt but he could be another realistic option for the Yankees if he's willing to accept a setup role.
Capps would be a riskier signing than Affeldt or Capps, but he would also probably come cheaper and have just as much upside.
If the Yankees go after Capps, there's a chance he would fail in New York. But there's also a chance he could return to his previous form and be a dominant setup man in front of Mariano Rivera.
2012 didn't work out as planned for Ryan Madson. He signed a one-year deal with the Reds, hoping to close and build up free agent value for this offseason. Instead, he got hurt during spring training, had Tommy John surgery and missed the season.
He's back on the market this offseason and is looking to close.
However, if the market dries up for him as it did last year, the Yankees would surely be interested in a low-risk, one year deal for the veteran for him to set up and rebuild his value once again.
Like Madson, Joakim Soria missed the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John and is a free agent.
Unlike Madson, however, Soria has expressed a willingness to set up for Mariano Rivera.
Soria was once a dominant closer for Kansas City but struggled in 2011 before having the surgery.
He probably won't be able to pitch before late May, but he's young enough that the Yankees could sign him to a short-term deal and consider him as the future closer of the team.