Some thoughts on the Rafael Soriano signing…
Soriano has a checkered injury history, and there is a better-than-average chance that somewhere in the course of his deal the Yankees will pay him to soak up the post-surgical sun. Despite this, the worst-case scenario is that they have a very qualified eighth-inning pitcher who can close on the off chance that Mariano Rivera needs to rest/is injured/suddenly pitches his age. Still, the Yankees had good bullpen resources and a lot of additional options for the pen in whichever of their 900 starting prospects they choose to demote from the rotation and groom for middle relief. Further, as good as Soriano is, he’s only going to give you somewhere between 60 and 75 innings, and as bad as some of the relievers looked in the 2010 postseason, those innings aren’t going to be so much better than what the holdovers would have delivered that the extra outs really justify the move. There has to be another shoe yet to drop for this move to make sense.
In terms of the 2011 team, there are no complaints. The Yankees had plenty of money to spend, and they certainly upgraded the back end of the bullpen. This will lead to a greater enjoyment of the 2011 season. The Yanks might win a few games that they otherwise would have lost, and we will all be a little less irritable the next mornings. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what this means for the 2012 and 2013 teams.
…In Soriano the Yankees get an excellent reliever who can help lockdown the endgame. It cost them a lot of money relative to his potential contribution, and it cost them the chance to draft a young player. If he stays healthy and locks down the eighth inning before sliding into the closer’s role for the final year of the deal, it might end up working out. But knowing what we know now, about relievers in general and Soriano specifically, I’m not too excited over this deal. Though I realize I’ll sleep that much easier during the 2011 season.
Ovet at It’s About the Money, Stupid, Jason likes Soriano but isn’t wild about losing a draft pick to the Rays.
Soriano has been one of the 15 best relievers in the game during the last three seasons, so this isn’t exactly Kyle Farnsworth redux (although it is eerily similar to Steve Karsay, another injury-prone pitcher who happened to be the fifth-best reliever in baseball by fWAR over the three seasons preceding his signing with the Yankees in 2002), but it’s still a pretty ugly deal. To focus on the positives for a moment, the Yankees’ 8th-9th inning endgame should be quite treacherous for opponents to deal with, although that’s also assuming they’re able to deliver Soriano and Mariano Rivera a lead — no sure thing with the uncertainty in the rotation.
And that’s probably the aspect of this deal that I find most critical. The money’s bad, but the greater problem is that Brian Cashman still hasn’t done anything about the gaping hole also known as the Yankees’ fourth and fifth starters. As literally every single person on my Twitter feed has noted, the silver lining to this move could (and should) be the rightful move of Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation. There is literally no reason to keep him in the ‘pen now. Unfortunately Chad Jennings already spoke to someone with the Yankees, and apparently there have still been no internal discussions about moving Joba back to the rotation. Here’s holding out hope that perhaps that’s just another “we won’t surrender a draft pick for a relief pitcher” red herring, but if they were planning on converting Joba back to a starter I’m not sure why they’d be playing it this close to the vest.