Rafael Soriano Rumors

AL East Notes: Soriano, Werner, Guthrie, Orioles

Rays prospect Chris Archer will make his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Nationals, filling in while Jeremy Hellickson is on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue.  Archer was ranked as the 89th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America before the season, though that was down from a #27 ranking the year prior due to Archer's fairly unimpressive 2011 campaign at Double-A.  This season, Archer has a 4.81 ERA, a 10.6 K/9 rate and 90 strikeouts (against 45 walks) in 14 starts for Triple-A Durham.

Here's some other news from around the AL East…

  • Rafael Soriano's success as the Yankees' closer could lead to him opting out of his contract for 2013 and becoming a free agent, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Soriano is set to earn $14MM from the Yankees in 2013, but could opt out in search of a longer-term commitment and a full-time closer's job, as Soriano will again be Mariano Rivera's set-up man if he stays in New York.  Sherman argues that Soriano's experience in high-pressure AL East games could help him find the multiyear deal that eluded most closers last offseason.
  • Red Sox chairman Tom Werner (in an interview with WEEI's The Big Show, as partially recapped by WEEI.com's Paul Flannery) denied Theo Epstein's recent statements about ownership pressure contributing to free agency decisions during Epstein's tenure as the team's general manager.  "We don't dictate who Theo or Ben [Cherington] should sign," Werner said. "What we do is we try to give them the resources to be successful. There's a sense that non-baseball people are telling baseball people what to do, but what we do is we try to create the revenue streams for our baseball operations people to be successful."
  • The Blue Jays have "been most active" in trade negotiations for Rockies' right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post.  We heard about Toronto's interest in Guthrie over the weekend but now that Guthrie has been moved to Colorado's bullpen, it will no doubt affect his trade value.
  • Former Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail deserves some of the credit for the team's early-season success, argues Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun.
  • The Orioles haven't made any progress with top two draft picks Kevin Gausman (4th overall) and Branden Kline (65th overall), tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.  Connolly "wouldn't be surprised if [negotiations] take a while" between the team and the two right-handers.

Yankees Notes: Soriano, Robertson, Rivera

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is expected to miss the rest of the 2012 season after tearing his ACL last week. Here are some links explaining the long-term impact of Rivera’s injury on the Yankees’ bullpen:

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests Rafael Soriano may contemplate hitting free agency in search of a long-term contract after the season if he takes over for Rivera and pitches well. Soriano has a $13MM player option for 2013.
  • David Robertson will earn considerably more through arbitration next year if he becomes the closer. The right-hander, who is under team control through 2014, could become a candidate for a long-term deal if he can handle closing, Sherman writes. An extension would keep Robertson in place for years to come and help the Yankees keep their payroll under the upcoming luxury tax threshold of $189MM.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders how much of a pay cut the Yankees can expect Rivera to take if they re-sign him this offseason. He suggests a 10% reduction to $13.5MM could work for both sides in 2013.
  • The majority of MLBTR readers believe Robertson should replace Rivera according to our weekend poll.

Closer Options For 2013

Last offseason's Hot Stove was notable for the hefty contracts signed by the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but the abundance of closers in free agency was an interesting secondary arc. A few stoppers signed for big bucks, and if there were any takeaway, it was that many teams have not necessarily adopted a frugal philosophy with respect to bullpen spending.

The upcoming offseason's class of free-agent closers is pretty interesting, too, and several of its potential members have options for 2013. Here's a list of those pitchers and a very preliminary look at whether their options figure to be picked up:

  • Matt Capps (2013 age: 29), $6MM club option with a $250K buyout: Capps' signing this offseason was maligned after he pitched poorly in 2011, but the Twins' bullpen was pretty barren, so it may have been a devil-you-know situation. He's pitching roughly the same so far this year, but the guess here is that if they were willing to bring him back after last year, they'll be willing to do so again. He could be a trade candidate, but I'm not sure there will be takers.
  • Ryan Madson (32), $11MM mutual option with a $2.5MM buyout: The Reds will be on the hook for at least $2.5MM, so will they want to gamble an extra $8.5MM on a guy coming off Tommy John surgery? With Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall in the back of the Reds' bullpen, I think they'll pass.
  • J.J. Putz (36), $6.5MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout: Putz is getting on in years, and his health is always a concern (including a DL stint during his brilliant 2011), but the right-hander is really good when he's on the mound. If he can get through this year relatively unscathed in terms of injury, which is no sure thing, I think the Diamondbacks will roll the dice, seeing as the penalty for snake eyes is relatively low.
  • Joakim Soria (29), $8MM club option with a $750K buyout: Similar to the Reds and Madson, the Royals will have a tough decision to make with Soria coming off (a second) Tommy John surgery. They've been very reluctant to part with him via trade previously, so I'm thinking they'll pick up the option just to save face and see what he can yield — either in terms of on-field contributions or perhaps a trade later in the season if he comes back healthy.
  • Huston Street (29), $9MM mutual option with a $500K buyout if club declines: The Padres will likely look to trade Street before this year's deadline, so his recent injury development must make them a little nervous. He has plenty of time to get healthy before the deadline, though, and I'd expect the Friars to move hard to flip him. If they can't, they could always pick up the option and then look to trade him again next summer.
  • Grant Balfour (35), $4.5MM club option with a $350K buyout: The A's will be shopping Balfour hard before the deadline, as he'll draw plenty of interest, as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently noted. Wherever he is, his option will look pretty attractive, with his durability and effectiveness probably trumping any concerns over his age.
  • Rafael Soriano (33), $14MM player option or a $1.5MM buyout: Soriano is very likely to exercise this option, meaning the Yankees will almost certainly be paying this hefty tab in 2013. The temptation may be there for Soriano to decline and rake in another two- or three-year deal elsewhere on the market, but he can get one of those after 2013, assuming for health.


Yankees Notes: Rivera, Betances, Rodriguez

It sounds as though 2012 may be the final season of what will surely be a Hall of Fame career for Mariano Rivera. Here’s the latest on the Yankees and the back end of their bullpen as Spring Training 2012 gets underway…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post doubts the Yankees will spend on the best free agent closer available, though it’s a strategy they might have chosen in the recent past. Brian Cashman believes it’s unwise to sign relievers other than Rivera to significant contracts, and the GM aims to keep payroll under $189MM by 2014.
  • David Robertson and Rafael Soriano are internal candidates to close if Rivera retires, as Sherman points out. Many baseball people believe the Yankees should use prospect Dellin Betances out of the bullpen, but he has just two MLB games to his name at this point.
  • The Yankees don’t expect Alex Rodriguez to be a vital part of their team four or five years from now, but there’s $143MM remaining on his contract, so the team needs to get as much value as possible from A-Rod.
  • The Yankees will obtain another closer, but they won’t replace Rivera, Sherman writes.
  • Robertson, Soriano and Joba Chamberlain told Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger that they aren't thinking about replacing Rivera just yet.

Free Agent Closers’ Usage

The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.

Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.

Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things — innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on — it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.

During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.

The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.

  • Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
  • Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
  • Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times. 
  • Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
  • Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Yankees Notes: Sabathia, Swisher, Blake, Soriano

Two Yankee legends were born on October 20: longtime Yankee Stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard (born in 1910) and number #7 himself, Mickey Mantle (born in 1931).  As coincidence would have it, both Sheppard and Mantle debuted at Yankee Stadium in 1951.

Here's the latest from the modern-day Bronx Bombers….

  • There haven't been any negotiations between the Yankees and C.C. Sabathia since the end of the ALDS, reports Ken Davidoff from Newsday.  The club "told Sabathia to take his time in sorting things out," though the Yankees hope to begin talks before the trigger date of Sabathia's opt-out clause, which is three days after the World Series ends.  Davidoff writes the Yankees would rather give Sabathia a larger annual salary in a new contract rather than add more years.
  • The Yankees are "very likely" to pick up Nick Swisher's $10.25MM option for 2012, reports ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews, though they may wait "until the very last minute" (i.e. three days after the World Series) to do so.
  • If Eric Chavez retires, Matthews reports the Yankees are weighing whether to make rookie Brandon Laird the primary third base backup or to acquire a veteran like Casey Blake for the spot.  Blake's $6MM option for 2012 was bought out by the Dodgers for $1.25MM two weeks ago, making him a free agent.
  • Scott Boras, Rafael Soriano's agent, tells Matthews it is "highly unlikely" that Soriano will opt out of the two years and $25MM remaining on his contract with New York.
  • The Yankees can't be blamed for their lack of pitching acquisitions at the trade deadline, writes Joe Pawlikowski of the River Ave Blues blog, given the lack of obvious upgrades on the market.

Yankees Notes: Kuroda, Darvish, Sabathia, Nova

The Yankees will decline Damaso Marte's option, as expected. Here are some more notes on the club's pitching staff…

  • C.C. Sabathia's investment in the Yankees is not "in the same universe" as Derek Jeter's, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out. The Yankees are hesitant to tie themselves up with long-term deals, but there should be common ground for the Yankees and their ace. Sherman proposes a number of deals that could work for both sides, including a five-year, $125MM contract with a vesting option for a sixth year. 
  • Though the Rangers would have interest if Sabathia hits the open market, Sherman explains that they aren't likely to be among his most aggressive suitors.
  • The Yankees don't seem inclined to add three years to Sabathia's contract to keep him in New York, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Sabathia has four years and $92MM remaining on his current deal and he will likely opt out after the World Series. Sabathia's weight gives the Yankees some concern about another seven-year deal.
  • The Yankees are beginning their scouting meetings today, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. Front office members will discuss possible acquisitions and provide GM Brian Cashman with the information he needs to create his offseason plan.
  • Marchand notes that free agent starter Hiroki Kuroda is a possible fit for the Yankees. Though Kuroda appears to prefer the Dodgers if he continues playing in MLB, the Yankees have had interest in him before. 
  • Rafael Soriano will not opt out of the two years and $25MM remaining on his contract, though there's nothing official yet, according to Marchand.
  • Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave. Blues explains that Yu Darvish makes sense for the Yankees because they can use their most abundant resource (money) to add a potential star who fits their offseason needs. Bidding on Darvish wouldn't require the Yankees to surrender a draft pick and wouldn't prevent them from bidding on free agent pitchers such as C.J. Wilson.
  • Ivan Nova remains an SFX client, after switching to Legacy Sports for two days, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). As MLBTR's Agency Database shows, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez are also SFX clients.

Yankees Notes: Swisher, Sabathia, Soriano, Garcia

With a month and a half remaining in the regular season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a look at a few subplots facing the Yankees as they prepare for the playoffs and the subsequent offseason. Let's check out the highlights….

  • Nick Swisher's OPS sat at .649 heading into June, but he's posted a .941 mark since then. Given his improved play, the Yankees will likely view his $10.25MM option for next year as reasonably priced, and bring him back.
  • It's nearly a certainty that C.C. Sabathia exercises his opt-out at season's end. Sherman sees the 31-year-old asking for a raise, from the four years and $92MM he'll have left, to no less than the seven years and $161MM he originally signed for.
  • Rafael Soriano has allowed one baserunner in six outings since coming off the DL, leading Sherman to wonder if the righty's opt-out could become a factor this winter. Considering how strong the relief market will be, I can't imagine even Scott Boras finding a deal better than the two years and $23MM Soriano has remaining on his current contract.
  • There's no guarantee Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia are Yankees next season, but Garcia projects as a Type B free agent, meaning the club figures to at least offer him arbitration.
  • Speaking of starters facing free agency, Jason Marquis tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he'd love to represent his hometown and pitch for the Yankees or Mets. Taking into account their divisions and home parks, the Mets may be more appealing for Marquis than the Yanks, but either way, Marquis suggests he'll "explore that avenue when the season is done."

Yankees Don’t Expect To Find Top Pitching In Trade

As Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes and Rafael Soriano work their way back from injuries, their general manager is surveying the trade market for possible targets. Yet Brian Cashman doesn’t see many quality arms available, so he expects his strongest pitching reinforcements to come from within the organization, according to Newsday’s Ken Davidoff.

"I'd be shocked if I could trade for anything better than what I'm getting off the DL, both with starters in Colon and Hughes and in the bullpen with Soriano," Cashman said.

The trade market develops quickly, especially in late July, so the Yankees may find an elite starter or reliever on the market eventually. They’ll look everywhere for possible upgrades with an emphasis on improving the rotation, according to Davidoff.

C.C. Sabathia has been one of the best pitchers in the league, Colon and Freddy Garcia have been pleasant surprises and A.J. Burnett has been passable. Fifth starter Ivan Nova has a 4.19 ERA with 5.0 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 56% ground ball rate in 86 innings. Though Brian Gordon has been fine as a spot starter, the Yankees presumably want to limit their reliance on him. As a group, the rotation ranks 12th in MLB with a 3.81 ERA (3.84 xFIP).


Yankees Notes: Soriano, Colon

After a rousing come-from-behind win last night, the Yankees are atop the AL East by a half game.  The latest on the club:

  • A third MRI on Rafael Soriano's elbow has prompted the Yankees to send the pricey reliever to see Dr. James Andrews, report Mark Feinsand and Sean Brennan of the New York Daily News.  The writers note that this marks Soriano's sixth elbow-related DL stint; he's a survivor of Tommy John surgery and ulnar nerve transposition surgery.  I'm not sure what surgeries are left, but the decision by Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to overrule GM Brian Cashman on this signing is looking bad.  If the team's bullpen depth is compromised due to the Soriano injury, Cashman might be forced to throw more money and/or prospects at the situation.
  • A baseball official reviewed video of the procedures done on Bartolo Colon's elbow and shoulder, physician Leonel Liriano told Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger"I feel that they know that everything is good," remarked Liriano.  MLB has been concerned that Colon's stem cell therapy could have involved the use of HGH.
  • Our 2012 contract issues entry for the Yankees was published a week ago, check it out.  Many key players have unresolved contract situations.
  • Our post on each team's draft picks reveals that the Yankees are one of 14 teams with two picks within the first 90.  The Yankees will sit out until pick #51 overall, the longest wait for any team aside from the Tigers.  The draft is less than two weeks away.