Friday, January 14, 2011

Soriano Nets Three Years from Yanks

According to SI’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees and relief ace Rafael Soriano have agreed to terms on a three year deal worth $35M.  ESPN New York provided more of the details:

“Soriano has player options after the first and second years of the deal, according to the source. In the first year, Soriano will receive $10 million and get an additional $1.5 million if he opts out. In the second year, he'll receive $11 million and an additional $1.5 million if he opts out. He'll get $14 million in the third year of his contract.

An official said the player options were the Yankees' idea because they wanted Soriano to be comfortable. At least one official in the organization thinks they have the best bullpen in baseball.
Soriano's contract does not include a no-trade clause, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.”

I guess I should start out by apologizing to Heyman.  It turns out he wasn’t full of crap on this one.  What can I say?  As Scott Boras’s personal hand puppet, it was only natural to assume that Heyman was trying to trying to stimulate interest for Boras’s last high profile client.  I was wrong.  Instead, it was Brian Cashman who was playing a little game of misdirection.  I guess holding on to their first round draft pick wasn’t really that important after all. 

There are a couple of important things I want to note about this deal.  One, the Yankees now have the best late inning relief tandem in baseball.  With the eighth and ninth innings officially on lock down, opposing teams are now faced with the reality that they’re essentially playing a seven inning game every time they face the Yankees.  That’s a huge psychological advantage.  Additionally, the Yankees now have a great insurnance option to close games should Rivera either get injured or need some additional rest between appearances. 

Two, Soriano’s deal includes opt out clauses after the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  Considering how weak the next free agent class has the potential to be (excluding Pujols and Fielder), it wouldn’t surprise me to see Soriano opt after this season; especially, if he puts together another season on par with his 2009 and 2010 seasons.  At 31 years old, Soriano has a limited window in which to maximize his earnings.  While three years and $35M is a record breaking contract for a set-up man, Soriano doesn’t see himself in that light.  He sees himself as a closer, and rightly so.  If Soriano completes his three year deal, he will enter the 2013 free agent market as a 34 year old pitcher who is likely in decline.  In all likelihood, he would have very few multi-year offers (if any), and he would probably have to take a pay cut.  By opting out of his contract after the season, he’ll re-enter the free agent market two years younger; therefore, he’d be more likely to (really) break the bank as the top reliever available.

It will be really interesting to see how this situation unfolds.  Soriano opting out could have a major affect on the market for Jonathan Papelbon during the 2011-2012 offseason.  Papelbon has long expressed his desire to set the high water mark for closer contracts.  Considering his recent struggles, and the potential for Soriano to hit the market, Papelbon might find himself having to lower his long-term contract expectations.  It would not surprise me to see him stuck in Soriano’s position next year. 

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