Rafael Soriano Signs With New York Yankees: The Pros and Cons of the Deal
Rafael Soriano has signed a three-year, $35 million dollar deal according to multiple reports. The former Ray was 45-48 in save chances in 2010, which led the AL.
Of American League relievers with at least 40 innings of work, Soriano was fifth in ERA (1.73) and second in WHIP (0.80).
The move marks the first major addition for the Yankees this offseason, who have thus far been considered one of the biggest losers in this year's free agency bonanza.
Pro: Improves an Already Good Bullpen; Potential For Best in Baseball
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Last year, the New York Yankees were pretty good when it came to shutting down games. They were third in the American League in bullpen ERA (3.47) and fourth in SO (401).
They held batters to the second best average against (.230), second only to the Tampa Bay Rays, who have clearly been stripped of all relief talent during the 2010-11 offseason (see Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler, and possibly Grant Balfour).
As SI's Jon Heyman (who originally broke the story) tweeted, "[The] Yankees are going for a lockdown bullpen, ala 1996."
It wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if the Yankees developed the best 1-2 combo in baseball. After all, they have Mariano Rivera to end games and now Soriano to get them through the eighth inning.
When you add in guys like David Robertson, Pedro Feliciano and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees have the chance to develop one scary 'pen.
Con: $35 Million Is Quite a Lot Of Dough For a Set Up Man
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I know the argument already; the Yankee's checkbook is supposedly limitless. When they want somebody, they have no inhibitions about offering him the world.
However, while the Yankees clearly spend more money than any other team in baseball, there is a limit on what they will spend.
The Yankees still do have about $20-25 million to play with, given that Andy Pettitte is leaning towards retirement.
But is any reliever worth $35 million? This is the age-old question of actual worth vs. a team's budget and current market.
One thing is for sure: If Soriano struggles, he runs the risk of being one of the most overpaid players in baseball.
Pro: Insurance For Mariano Rivera
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Mariano Rivera is arguably the greatest closer of all time, and he's signed through 2012.
Last season, he saved 33 games in 38 opportunities. He featured a 1.80 ERA and 0.83 WHIP (the second lowest single season average of his career).
Even at age 41, it doesn't look like Mo is going anywhere. He needs just 43 more saves to surpass Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves leader list.
However, on the (very, very, very minuscule) off chance that Rivera does struggle, or gets injured, Soriano is as capable a fill-in as there is.
Plus, if Rivera decides to retire after the 2012 season, Soriano will be in line for the job.
When someone with the talent of Rivera walks away, it's hard to find someone who can fill his shoes. Soriano could be that guy.
Con: Soriano's Injury History
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As with most relievers in baseball, Soriano's career has been anything but consistent.
Tommy John surgery limited him to just 13 total games from 2004-2005. However, from 2006-2007, Soriano appeared in 124 games with the Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves.
But in 2008, Soriano suffered right elbow inflammation, appeared in just 14 games, and eventually underwent season-ending surgery.
Soriano has been healthy since his '08 injury, but it's no small matter that Soriano has had two major surgeries to his throwing arm over his career.
He's a bit of a risk health wise, and he has yet to stay healthy for three consecutive seasons.
Pro: Flexibilty For Joba Chamberlain
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The Yankees can finally afford to take a number of different paths with the once-prodigy pitcher Joba Chamberlain.
In four seasons with the Pinstripes, Joba has delighted and disappointed both as a starter and a reliever.
Now, the Yankees don't have to entertain any ideas that he is the heir to Rivera or count on him for crucial late-inning work. They can work him out as a middle and/or long reliever and simply allow him to go out there and pitch.
Or, if the Yankees feel that it is necessary, they could part ways with the former phenom, who is due a substantial raise through the arbitration process.
Con: Still No Help For The Rotation
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Despite the formation of one of the best bullpens in baseball, the Yankees still haven't found any answers for the starting rotation.
Andy Pettitte has the Yankees over a barrel, and all signs point to retirement for the 38-year-old.
Obviously, they still have CC Sabathia to front the rotation, but beyond that, there are a number of question marks.
Phil Hughes had a pretty good first half last season, going 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. His second half, however, was atrocious. In 13 starts Hughes was 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He has yet to put it together for a full year on the MLB level.
Going into A.J. Burnett's struggles at this point is unneeded, and the 24-year-old Ivan Nova with 42.0 innings of MLB experience can't exactly inspire much confidence for a full season of solid MLB service.
Having a good bullpen is a fundamental aspect of a championship team. But, you can't hold the lead if you don't have it in the first place.
Pro: Soriano Is Great in The AL East
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Last season, Soriano posted some pretty decent numbers against AL East foes.
In six games against the Red Sox, Soriano was 5-5 in save opportunities with a 1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
In seven games against the Yankees, Soriano was 4-4 in save opportunities with a 1.29 ERA and a 0.571 WHIP.
He struggled a bit against the Orioles and Blue Jays, but he still has the benefit of experience. We know Soriano can pitch in the AL East, and there shouldn't be any adjustment time.
Con: The Yankees Lose Their First Round Draft Pick While Helping The Rays & Sox
The Yankees will have to find an heir to Mr. New York at some point. It just won't be in 2011.
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Since Soriano is a Type A free agent, the Yankees will have to give up their first round draft choice to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Also, the signing of Soriano by the Yankees guarantees the Red Sox first-round compensation for losing Adrian Beltre. If Soriano had gone to Texas, the Sox would have only gotten a second-round pick from the Rangers.
The 2011 draft is expected to be one of the deepest in recent history, but the Yankees have just one pick (49th) in the first 57 picks.
The Rays, however, now have six picks in the first 57 (24, 32, 38, 50, 55, 57), which includes two first rounders.
The Red Sox have guaranteed themselves four picks in the first 57 (19, 26, 36, 40), which also includes two first rounders.
The Yankees are missing out on the opportunity to draft in one of the deeper pools we've seen in awhile. Considering the age of guys like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, they're either going to have to develop some young players or sign a few high-profile free agents somewhere down the road.
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I must admit, the Yankees did good here.
However, I doubt this is the last move the Yankees make, as they still have some work to do. They still have a rather suspect starting staff, and throwing guys like Justin Duchscherer towards the end isn't going to cut it.
The one cause for concern here would be Soriano's extensive injury history. He's never stayed healthy for three consecutive seasons (the length of the deal), and would be due for an injury this year if he follows the same trend that his career has taken thus far.
However, if he stays healthy, the Yankees are looking at one of the best bullpens in baseball.