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The Polarizing Rafael Soriano Contract

By Mike Silva ~ January 13th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

Brian Cashman surprised the dormant Yankees universe by signing Rafael Soriano to a three year/$35 million dollar contract tonight.

Tyler Kepner has the details, stating that Soriano can “opt out after the first or second year. If he opts out after 2011, he gets $11.5 million. If he opts out after 2012, he gets $21.5 million total. If he sticks around for all three years of the contract, Soriano gets the full $35 million.”

In just the hour since the deal was announced, Yankees fans have lit up twitter and the blogs with discourse. With many new age fans valuing the draft, there is a great deal of unhappiness the Yankees will lose their first round pick to Tampa due to Soriano’s Type A status. Other fans point out that Soriano’s fly ball rate may be problematic at the homer prone Yankee Stadium.

Of course, there is always the issue with Soriano’s injury history as he’s missed parts of three seasons due to injury. Also remember the Yankees haven’t had much success with relievers on long term deals as Steve Karsay, LaTroy Hawkins, Damaso Marte, and Kyle Farnsworth all didn’t live up to expectations.

A week ago I talked about how Soriano would provide a “lockdown” bullpen for the Yankees. When you factor in the front end relievers like Pedro Feliciano, David Robertson, and Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees might have the best pen in baseball. Soriano also allows Joe Girardi to rest Mariano Rivera, and avoid using him for two inning stints unless absolutely necessary. When you consider the Yankees ability to go over slot in later rounds of the amateur draft, and success in the international market, losing a late first round pick shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

If this were any mid market team the deal would be terrible. For the Yankees they have spent far more for less at other times in their history. I think it’s a good move, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a starting pitcher is next on deck.

What do you think? Let’s take the pulse of the fans.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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3 Responses to The Polarizing Rafael Soriano Contract

  1. Joe R.

    You actually make a sort of fair point, Mike.

    But at the same time, like you said, you already do have Feliciano, and David Robertson, who’s a lower walk rate away from being the next closer anyway.

    This contract screams to me that the Yankees had premier FA money to use, that didn’t get used on guys like Crawford, Werth, Lee, etc, so they just decided to sign someone.

    I like the contract, but it’s because I’m a Red Sox fan. I’m not sure if that’s who Yankee fans want liking the contract.

  2. Russ

    When I first saw Heyman break the news, I thought this was a HUGE risk and quite the gamble on the Yankees’ part, however after thinking about it I like it for 4 reasons…

    #1 Mo is 42. He may be a freak, but he’s still a 42 year old freak and I don’t care who you are at 42 you are an injury risk. It’s also reality that his velocity has dropped the last few years, even if he has been brilliant in using his cutter to disguise that fact. Soriano is a very expensive insurance policy but if Mo happened to get hurt the same people who are ripping this deal will be kissing the ground that he and Cashman walk on. The disparity between Soriano and Joba is just that great and Soriano provides you with the faith not to feel like you have to panic f for some reason Mo has to be shut down for a period of time. Also, not having to go to Mo for 3+ outs during the regular season is only a good thing that will help keep Mo and his 42 year old bones healthy over the long haul.

    #2. A few weeks back, I presented a plan where the Yankees would sign Soriano to a one year deal. That way, he can go back into the free agent market and thus be flipped for 2 first round draft picks as a Type A. Because of the opt out clauses in the deal, that is kind of what he did. For that reason, the loss of the draft pick is insignificant. If he stays healthy and pitches well, he’ll certainly use the opt out clause and the #1 pick will turn into 2 for 2012. As for missing out on this loaded draft class, they won’t as they still have a top 50 pick in return for losing Javy Vazquez. The real puzzling part is the complaints about giving up the pick to Tampa Bay. The Rays were getting a #1 for Soriano no matter what and really, by getting ours (#31) they are getting a lower pick than if he signed any where else.

    #3 The bullpen is now fierce, especially in October. Totally a shut down situation. They have good balance and more importantly a bunch of hard throwing strike out guys and nothing is better for getting out of a jam than striking guys out.

    #4 It adds flexibility, specifically as it concerns one Joba Chamberlain. Now, Joba can either be moved into the starting rotation or be traded for starting pitching help. The Dodgers, for example, have 6 starters, and need pen help plus Broxton is a free agent after the year. Now they aren’t trading the kids, Padilla is of no interest and Garland can’t be dealt until May 15th. That leaves Ted Lilly and Koroda. Would they trade Lilly, and his contract, for Joba? Previously, we didn’t match up with the White Sox, but now we can give them a guy to replace Jenks. Would they trade say Gavin Floyd for Joba & Brandon Laird? How about expanding the deal to include a couple of kids, say Phelps and/or Nova to bring back 2012 free agent Mark Buhrlie? Would Anaheim move a SP for Joba as they need pen help? How about Joba for Wandy Rodriguez (a 2012 FA)? I’m not saying any of these will happen, but they now have options that were simply not there before. Plus, they are still 20 million under last years’ payroll, so bringing in Andruw Jones, Duscherrer or Francis and Jerry Hairston is still a scenario that is in play with wiggle room for dealing at the deadline.

    Sure, they are taking a big risk with Soriano who has never had a 3 year period of consistent health in his entire career but it’s a case where that big risk comes with a bigger potential reward. Either way, the big picture in the AL East just became a lot more interesting as has matching up with those big RH bats in Texas. The advanced metrics guys hate this but there is sound logic here in a pure baseball sense and the way the contract is structured, the risk is not as big as 3 for 36 sounds on the surface.

  3. TT

    I don’t understand the hate out there. It’s only cash and we all know the Yankees print money.

    Draft pick? They can load up on over slot guys later on in the draft. They can get aggressive with the International mkt.

    They are a win now team. And after not getting Lee and the cost of SP in trades too high they had to reevaluate and attack from a different angle. It’s smart. The 2nd best closer in the game who thrived in the Al East.

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