Friday, January 7, 2011

Nice Work if You Can Find It

Typically, top flight closers like Rafael Soriano don't have this much trouble finding work. 

Yesterday, Scott Boras told Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York that his client would have no problems being the Yankees set-up man.  This admission by Boras is a bit surprising because it shows he's having trouble gaining significant interest for Soriano.  In hopes of reigniting the market, Boras is using his old stand by to drum up interest.  After the disappointing offseason the Yankees have had, Boras is using the media to rile up the fanbase.  In doing so, he's hoping fans will pressure the front office into action.  Unfortunately for Soriano and Boras, the Yankees aren't interested.  While it's obvious to see how a Soriano-Rivera tandem would benefit the Yankees, making that scenario a reality is not that simple.
But Soriano comes at a high price, and not just in terms of dollars. It's a price that Brian Cashman insists he won't pay.

"I will not lose our number one draft pick," the Yankees' general manager told the Journal News of Westchester. "I would have for Cliff Lee. I won't lose our number one draft pick for anyone else."

Despite Soriano's new found role flexibility, his salary demands have remained rigid.  He's still reportedly looking for a three year contract with an average annual salary of $9-10M.  It doesn't take a genius to realize that even the best set-up man in the world isn't worth $9-10M per year--not even to a deep pocketed team like the Yankees  When you add in the fact that Soriano commands Type A compensation, it makes signing Soriano even more cost prohibitive.  If the Yankees signed Soriano at this point, they would be required to surrender their number one pick (31st overall) to the Rays in a draft that's widely considered to be stacked.  While surrendering your top draft pick might be acceptable when signing a top tier free agent, it's unacceptable when you're doing so to sign an overpriced set-up man.

The Yankees aren't the only team that's scared off by Soriano's asking price.  According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the White Sox are interested, but only at a reduced price.  The ChiSox appear to have met their maximum payroll threshold after signing Dunn, Konerko, and Jesse Crain to long-term contracts.  Even if they were able to sign Soriano for a reduced price, they still may end up having to make a corresponding move to clear some salary from the roster. 

Soriano put together a tremendous season for the Rays in 2010 saving 45 games in 48 chances, while putting up a 1.73 ERA, a 57/14 K/BB ratio, and a 1.6 fWAR.  For a pitcher that was one of the two or three best closers in baseball last season, his inability to find suitors interested in meeting his salary demands is nothing short of baffling.  Yankee manager Joe Girardi thought so highly of Soriano, he planned to use him as the closer in last year's All-Star game.  Now, he's talking about talking a role reduction?  It just goes to show how unpredictable free agency can be.  Jonathan Papelbon should keep a close eye on Soriano's experience.  It wouldn't surprise me to see him in a similar situation next year.

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