Rafael Soriano Rumors

New York Notes: Outfield, Soriano, A-Rod, Wright

The Yankees are considering a defensive change for next season, shifting Curtis Granderson to left field and Brett Gardner to center, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  Granderson's defense has declined in recent years, as he has posted negative UZR/150 ratings in four of the last five years, including a -18.2 UZR/150 in 2012.  Gardner, on the other hand, has a career 30.6 UZR/150, ranking him amongst the best defensive outfielders in the game.

Here's the latest from both the Yankees and Mets…

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn't plan to offer Rafael Soriano a deal similar to the one he signed after the 2010 season that established Soriano as Mariano Rivera's set-up man and understudy at closer, reports ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews.  "I don't think Soriano would sign here if he's not going to be the closer," Cashman said. "And I don't think we would do again what we did before. He's going to want closer money and I doubt he would want to come back here as a set-up man."  Soriano is a free agent after opting out of the last year of his deal, and agent Scott Boras said Soriano is looking for a four-year contract to close.  Soriano could still return to the Bronx, of course, if Rivera retires and the Bombers suddenly have a hole at the back of their bullpen.
  • Also from Matthews, he reports that the Yankees will make qualifying offers to Nick Swisher and Hiroki Kuroda.  Swisher will almost surely turn this offer down but Kuroda "might accept it."  The Yankees have interest in bringing back Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez on short-term contracts, while the club also would like to re-sign Andy Pettitte and Russell Martin.
  • The Yankees haven't received any calls from teams interested in Alex Rodriguez, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale.  It could be a moot point, as Nightengale hears that Rodriguez isn't willing to waive his no-trade clause for any team.
  • The Mets are continuing to talk to David Wright about a multiyear extension but talks are "stuck in neutral" and there is "nothing imminent" between the two sides, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post and Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger (both links to Twitter).
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden believes Wright and the Mets will agree to a new long-term contract, but if they can't, Bowden suggests five teams who could become trade destinations for Wright.

Scott Boras Seeking Four Years For Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano opted out of the final year of his contract with the Yankees today, passing up a guaranteed $14MM in favor of a potential multiyear deal. Team president Randy Levine and agent Scott Boras told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the two sides did discuss a new contract, but they didn't see eye to eye.

"Randy and I had a discussion," said Boras. "He requested us to make an offer. At this time, we thought it best to file before making any proposals to the Yankees … I never make promises as to what the free-agent market might bear. I'm in the business of providing information to my clients and negotiating on their behalf. I'm not in the business of promising my clients contracts."

Levine told Heyman that Boras told Soriano he "could get $60 million for four years" on the open market this offseason, which would be the richest contract for a reliever in history. "People can make logical conclusions. I am happy he feels he has a feel for the value of the player," added Boras of Levine.

Soriano, 32, pitched to a 2.26 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 this season, and he went 42-for-46 in save chances after Mariano Rivera injured his knee. Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year, $50MM contract with the Phillies last offseason, which appeared to set the market for high-end closers.

Rafael Soriano Opts Out Of Contract

12:29pm: Soriano has opted out of his contract and will hit free agency, Heyman reports (on Twitter).

7:45am: Rafael Soriano will opt out of his contract with the Yankees and elect free agency today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Soriano's contract includes a $14MM player option for 2013 with a $1.5MM buyout.

Assuming the right-hander opts out, the Yankees will counter by making him a one-year qualifying offer worth $13.3MM. This would link Soriano to draft pick compensation, setting the Yankees up for a potential pick in 2013. The Scott Boras client is believed to be seeking a four-year deal, Heyman reports. Soriano probably won't accept New York's qualifying offer, but the Yankees are likely willing to give him a two-year deal.

The 32-year-old posted a 2.26 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with 42 saves this past season. “There is a strong chance that he would have tremendous value as a free agent,” Boras told Joel Sherman earlier in the month. It's hard to disagree following such a strong season.

Sherman’s Latest: Wright, Soriano, Tigers, LaRussa

Here's the latest from Joel Sherman of The New York Post

  • Sherman has spoken to more than ten executives outside the Mets organization who believe the team will re-sign David Wright and relatively soon. It's a public relations move as much as a baseball move, plus getting him signed quickly will allow them to fine tune their offseason plans.
  • Officials expect Wright to receive a seven-year, $127MM extension that, when combined with his $16MM club option for next year, would be worth a total of $143MM across eight years. It would make Wright the highest paid Met in history (ahead of Johan Santana) and the second high paid third baseman in history (behind Alex Rodriguez).
  • “Teams no longer like paying big money for closers, there is a lot of tread on his tires and he is not known as a great guy," said one NL executive about Rafael Soriano, who is expected to opt-out of his contract with the Yankees and become a free agent this offseason.
  • Sherman wonders if Jose Valverde's late-season collapse will help Soriano on the open market as the Tigers will likely look for a high-end closer. Tigers own Mike Ilitch has a strong working relationship with Soriano's agent Scott Boras.
  • Former manager Tony LaRussa recently said he would not have offered more than five or six years to Albert Pujols last winter or Josh Hamilton this winter, and Sherman says the players association was not pleased. LaRussa is currently an advisor to the Commissioner and anything resembling talk of collusion from baseball's higher-ups sets off an alarm.

Boras Hints That Soriano Will Opt-Out Of Contract

Scott Boras strongly hinted that Rafael Soriano will opt-out of his contract with the Yankees and become a free agent this offseason, reports Joel Sherman of The New York Post. The agent said he still has to have further conversations with the team before finalizing plans, but the Yankees are unlikely to offer an extension.

“There is a strong chance that he would have tremendous value as a free agent,” said Boras. Sherman notes that big market clubs like the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Red Sox, Giants, and Tigers could all be in the market for a high-end closer this winter.

Soriano, 32, pitched to a 2.26 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 67 2/3 innings this season. After Mariano Rivera went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-May, he stepped in at closer and went 42 for 46 in save chances. Soriano signed a three-year, $35MM contract with the Yankees prior to 2010 and has the right to opt-out of the final year. He would be walking away from a $14MM guarantee in favor of a potential multiyear contract.

Sherman says Soriano and Boras have until three days after the end of the World Series to exercise the opt-out clause, and the Yankees would likely make him a qualifying offer to ensure they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. We first heard that Soriano was likely to opt-out last month, and team president Randy Levine indicated that they want to keep the reliever in New York.

Levine Talks Payroll, Girardi, Rivera, Ichiro

Yankees president Randy Levine addressed the team’s age, injuries, leadership and prospective free agents in a comprehensive interview with Barry Bloom of MLB.com. Here are some more highlights from his interview with Bloom:

  • The Yankees aim to avoid the $189MM luxury tax threshold by 2014, Levine confirmed. “There are tremendous financial incentives to do it,” he said. “In addition to not paying the tax, there are tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing rebates that will come back to teams like the Yankees if they stay under the threshold.” 
  • The Yankees must get younger to continue competing, Levine said. Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement places additional importance on player development and changes to the CBA could also lead to a “very different free-agent market,” Levine said.
  • Joe Girardi and his staff have done a “good job,” Levine said. He declined to discuss Girardi’s long-term future with the team, saying only that discussions would take place at the appropriate time.
  • Levine expressed confidence in general manager Brian Cashman and the team’s other front office executives. “I think everybody is great.”
  • The Yankees are doing “very, very well” from a business standpoint, Levine said. He made it clear that the Steinbrenner family has no intention of selling the club, but said the Dodgers’ sale price of $2 billion “gives us something to smile about.”
  • The Yankees would “love to have” Mariano Rivera come back in 2013, Levine said. “If he wants to come back, we'll welcome him back.”
  • The Yankees want Rafael Soriano in New York and believe he has done a tremendous job. The closer is expected to opt out of his contract with the Yankees after the season and elect free agency.
  • The Yankees will talk to Andy Pettitte this offseason if the left-hander is interested in returning for another year.
  • Ichiro Suzuki “has done a good job” in New York, Levine said. As of now, however, the team is focused on 2012, not Ichiro’s next contract.
  • Levine acknowledged that he’s concerned about injuries, saying the frequency of disabled list stints is “troubling.”

Rafael Soriano Likely To Opt Out

There’s a good chance Rafael Soriano will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract with the Yankees after the season and hit free agency early, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Soriano must choose between another year in New York with a salary of $14MM and opting out for a $1.5MM buyout and the uncertainty of the open market.

Yankees people believe they have a very solid relationship with Soriano, who’s a client of the Boras Corporation. Team executives aren’t convinced he’d opt out and pass up $14MM, according to Heyman. If Soriano opts out, the Yankees can still make him a qualifying offer valued at $13MM-plus and link him to draft pick compensation.

Mariano Rivera will hit free agency this offseason, but if he re-signs with the Yankees he’d presumably have the closer’s job and push Soriano into a setup role. The sides could also work out a multiyear deal with the idea that Soriano could set up in 2013 and close after that, Heyman writes.

Soriano, 32, signed a three-year, $35MM contract with New York following the 2010 season. He has a 2.17 ERA with 9.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 37 saves in 58 innings so far in 2012.

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.