Rafael Soriano Rumors

Rafael Soriano’s Contract

Opt-out clauses and player options often result in no-win situations for teams, as in the cases of A.J. Burnett and J.D. Drew in offseasons past.  Both players were performing well enough to opt out and score much bigger contracts, a path that C.C. Sabathia could follow after the 2011 season.  My initial reaction when Scott Boras negotiated two opt-outs within Rafael Soriano's three-year, $35MM deal with the Yankees was that the team made a major concession.  However, upon a closer look I'm not so sure.

The most baffling aspect of Soriano's contract is the suggestion that his $11.67MM average salary represented a drop in his price tag.  If that's a discount, I can't imagine what Boras was asking for at the beginning of the offseason.  In January, it wasn't even clear that Soriano had a second serious suitor.


Had he not saved 72 games over the last two seasons, I imagine Soriano's salary would have been around $6MM a year, about half what he got from the Yankees and the going rate for a top setup man.  Closer inflation is the reason I don't expect Soriano to opt out of his contract at either of his chances.  If he puts up a strong 2011 season but saves fewer than ten games, what team would pay him more than the two years and $23.5MM left on his contract?  If Soriano sets up for Rivera in 2012 as well, what team would offer him more than $12.5MM for one year?  Soriano needs to hope for relief contracts to take additional leaps forward in the next two offseasons.

The main benefit to Soriano is the chance to try for a longer term after the '11 or '12 seasons.  But if you factor in a reduced setup man salary on a new deal, I'm still skeptical that he'd risk opting out.  A strong 2011 might allow Soriano to find a three-year deal for around $25MM, but that's not a big enough improvement over the two years and $23.5MM that would remain on his current deal.  Getting three years as opposed to one after the '12 season has added appeal, but the Yankees backloaded Soriano's contract so that it'll still be a tough choice for him.  For Soriano to have a clear reason to opt out at either point, he may need to be coming off a season in which he dominates and racks up 30+ saves.  Since Rivera is 42 now, that is possible.

Soriano is an injury risk, and I've seen the argument that the opt-out clauses ensure he'll remain with the Yankees if he suffers a major injury.  That would have been the case anyway on a normal guaranteed three-year deal.

Aside from the Yankees bidding against themselves, the biggest concern about the Soriano contract is the potential erosion of GM Brian Cashman's autonomy, as he was said to be opposed to signing Soriano due to the loss of the #31 overall draft pick to the Rays.  Co-owners Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine reportedly made the final decision to sign Soriano, though Wallace Matthew's source insisted:

"Cash has not lost one iota of credibility or autonomy over this. There has been no loss of faith in him at all. Cash is in charge of all baseball operations, but he would never in a million years tell you ownership doesn't make the final decisions. It's their money, not his."

Steinbrenner On Jeter, Luxury Tax, Burnett, Soriano

It doesn't take much to coax Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner into giving his thoughts on the state of the franchise and baseball as a whole.  The outspoken part-owner sounded off on a number of topics to reporters today, writes Bryan Hoch of MLB.com..

  • Steinbrenner seems worried about the team's drive to win, saying "I think maybe they celebrated a little bit too much last year," the co-chairman said. "Some of the players are too busy building mansions and other things and not concentrating on winning."  Shortstop Derek Jeter built a mansion in Florida during the offseason after negotiating a new three-year, $51MM deal.  When asked if the comment was directed at the team captain, Steinbrenner insisted that he wasn't singling anybody out.
  • The Yankees' 2010 payments as a result of luxury tax and revenue sharing programs are expected to total about $130 million, Steinbrenner said.  He continued to say that the Yankees are allied with other major market teams on the issue and believes that Commissioner Bud Selig wants to "correct it in some way."  Hoch noted that in a recent interview on Boston's 98.5 the Sports Hub, the commish said that he is happy with the system as it stands today.
  • Steinbrenner says that pitcher A.J. Burnett seems "very hungry" for a bounce-back season.  Last year, Burnett turned in a 5.26 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9.  The 34-year-old right-hander is set to earn $16.5MM annually through 2013.
  • Skipper Joe Girardi, closer Mariano Rivera and several hitters were consulted on the idea of signing Rafael Soriano, Steinbrenner said.  Last week, Rivera said that he had not been consulted about the signing but was happy to have the reliever aboard.

Heyman On Fielder, Papelbon, Rays, Giants

Prince Fielder is looking to join the $200MM club and the Red Sox considered trading Jonathan Papelbon to the A's or White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here are the details and the rest of Heyman's rumors:

  • Fielder is looking for at least eight years and $200MM or so when he hits free agency after the season, according to Heyman. Not surprisingly, the Brewers don't like the idea of committing that much to their first baseman.
  • The Red Sox talked to the A's and White Sox about Jonathan Papelbon. Boston appeared willing to offer Rafael Soriano a one-year deal and make him their closer. If the sides had agreed to a deal, the Red Sox would have sent Papelbon elsewhere, likely to Oakland or Chicago
  • The Rays, who are moving toward a deal with Johnny Damon, have also considered Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Russell Branyan and Nick Johnson.
  • The Yankees hope to hear from Andy Pettitte soon, but the lefty is still mulling retirement.
  • The Giants appear to be nearing a one-year deal with Andres Torres. As our Arb Tracker shows, Torres filed at $2.6MM and the Giants countered with $1.8MM.
  • Heyman says there's "scuttlebutt" that the Rangers could look to lock Josh Hamilton up on a multiyear deal. 
  • Heyman talked to executives about Joey Votto's new deal and arrived at the conclusion I reached after talking to insiders earlier in the week: the Reds didn't appear to gain much from their deal with the reigning NL MVP.
  • Heyman points out that Jose Bautista's representatives will have to convince arbitrators to overlook the string of pedestrian seasons that led up to Bautista's mammoth 2010 campaign. For more on Bautista's case, click here.

Yankees Sign Rafael Soriano

The Yankees have signed Rafael Soriano to a three-year contract, the team announced today. The deal is believed to be worth $35MM over three years, and will allow the player to opt out after either of the first two years.The Scott Boras client will make $11.5MM if he opts out after year one and $21.5MM if he opts out after year two. The contract does not include a no-trade clause.

The deal comes just days after GM Brian Cashman said that he would not surrender his first round pick to sign a free agent. The Rays will receive New York's first round pick (31st overall) as well as a supplemental first round pick as compensation for their loss. 

The 31-year-old Soriano was the top closer on the market, but he's going to have to serve as Mariano Rivera's setup man with the Yankees. He pitched to a 1.73 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and just 2.0 BB/9 in 62.1 innings last year, the second straight season he's avoided the disabled list. He's battled elbow trouble in the past, including Tommy John surgery back in 2004. Over the last four seasons, Soriano has struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings while walking 2.7 per nine. Although his home run rate has improved in recent years (0.7 HR/9 since 2008), he's an extreme fly ball pitcher (just 31% ground balls in his career). That could give him some problems in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. 

At an $11.67MM average annual value, Soriano will be the fifth highest paid reliever in baseball, trailing only Rivera, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, and Joe Nathan. Jonathan Papelbon's eventual 2011 salary could also factor into that equation soon enough. It's a healthy raise from the $7.5MM Soriano earned in 2010, which came after he accepted the Braves offer of arbitration last offseason. With Billy Wagner already on board, it pushed Atlanta to trade him to Tampa.

SI.com's Jon Heyman adds that the Yankees still have about $20MM to spend before they hit their 2011 payroll limit (Twitter link). That's plenty for a right-handed outfield bat and starting pitching, even if they wait for a salary dump situation to arise during the season.

Heyman originally reported the agreement (all Twitter links). ESPN's Buster Olney and Tyler Kepner of The New York Times added details (Twitter links).

AL East Links: Pettitte, Cashman, Chavez, Red Sox

The latest on the AL East, as teams turn their attention to arbitration eligible players and possible bargains on the free agent market

Yankees Notes: Jones, Damon, Soriano, Rays

Let's check out the latest rumblings from the Bronx….

  • The Yankees have stepped up their pursuit of Andruw Jones, tweets SI.com's Jon Heyman. Heyman previously reported that the two sides were apart on money, despite the team's strong interest in the outfielder. While the Rays and other clubs are still involved, the Yankees appear to be making a push to get something done with the 33-year-old.
  • In the same tweet, Heyman adds that Johnny Damon remains a possibility for both the Yankees and Rays.
  • Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes that Rafael Soriano's $35MM price tag isn't the only reason to be concerned about the signing. Madden questions the right-hander's make-up, but says the Yankees are confident that Mariano Rivera will be a "calming, guiding force" for Soriano.
  • Speaking to Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said that while Soriano didn't make a great first impression in Tampa Bay, he turned out to be a "consummate pro." "I wish we were the ones signed up for three more years with him," Hickey added.

Rafael Soriano Signing Reactions

The Yankees agreed to sign Rafael Soriano to a three-year deal that guarantees the right-hander $35MM. The Bronx Bombers don't get much of a guarantee from Soriano, who can opt out after year one or year two. The deal sends a first round pick from the Yankees to the Rays and gives the Yankees a pair of shutdown relievers in closer Mariano Rivera and Soriano. Here are some reactions to the deal between the Yanks and the Scott Boras client with the latest reactions up top:

  • ESPN.com's Keith Law points out that the Yankees gave Soriano tons of leverage. It's "a baffling scenario" from the Yankees' perspective, Law writes.
  • The Soriano deal was more ownership-driven than from baseball operations, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The team's front office was split on the prospect of signing Soriano.  WEEI.com's Alex Speier notes that the Soriano signing seems to contradict Cashman's year-old opinion about relief contracts.
  • The Yankees had talked about signing Grant Balfour in a possible sign-and-trade before Soriano and Balfour agreed to their respective deals, according to Olney.
  • Olney suggests there’s a “major divide of opinion on Soriano within the organization, and that [GM Brian] Cashman's autonomy in matters of baseball operations may have eroded.” Olney points out that the Yankees now have two of the six relievers in baseball who earn $10MM or more.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal feels it's hard to properly judge the Soriano contract since "the Yankees operate on a completely different economic scale from the rest of baseball and can't be used as a comparison point for anything."
  • Tom Verducci of SI.com calls the deal a "smart" one for the Yankees and points out that it doesn't change the way they do business.
  • As Ben Shpigel of the New York Times points out, the Yankees expect the signing to take pressure off of their thin rotation.
  • Kevin Kernan of the New York Post argues that the deal saved the offseason for Cashman.
  • Chad Jennings of the Journal News explains that the deal makes the Yankees better short-term, but not necessarily a lot better. 
  • Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald explores what the deal means for the Red Sox. They will be tough to beat late in games, they'll definitely obtain the Rangers' first rounder for the loss of Adrian Beltre and Jonathan Papelbon could have trouble finding a massive deal in free agency after the season. 
  • FanGraphs' Chris Cwik says "it’s tough to defend any team that gives out such a large contract to a relief pitcher and this instance is no different."
  • My reaction has less to do with the Yankees and Soriano and more to do with Boras. How did Boras get a $35MM guarantee plus two opt-outs for his client in a market that was, by all accounts, pretty dry? It's been a standout offseason for baseball's best-known agent.

Quick Hits: Soriano, Manuel, Galarraga, Angels

Some items from around the majors…

  • The Angels aren't one of the teams reportedly still interested in Rafael Soriano, tweets Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  The Yankees are "still trying," in spite of their earlier statements to the contrary.
  • Charlie Manuel's agent tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Manuel and the Phillies have a mutual interest in working out a contract extension before Opening Day.  Manuel has one year left on his current deal, and Salisbury speculates that he's looking for a two-year extension worth roughly $4MM per season.
  • Armando Galarraga is out of options, eligible for arbitration and has probably been squeezed out of the Detroit rotation by Brad Penny, reports Jason Beck of MLB.com.  If Galarraga gets too large of a salary bump in arbitration, the Tigers could choose to trade or just release him before Opening Day.
  • The Angels' quiet offseason has been heavily criticized, but Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reminds us that the Halos still have a very solid team.
  • If the Twins don't re-sign Jim Thome, Kelly Thesier of MLB.com says the team could return to what it was looking for last winter: a right-handed hitting backup option in the outfield or at first base.  Thesier cites Jorge Cantu and Troy Glaus as possibilities, and we've heard the Padres were considering the same two players.  The Twins could also dip into the rest of the DH market, or look to upgrade their bullpen.
  • There isn't much historial evidence to suggest that Josh Beckett will return to his ace form over the long run, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald.

AL East Notes: Jays, Soriano, Farnsworth, Arroyo

Some news items from the AL East…

  • Toronto's payroll could end up being in the $80-$85MM range, tweets FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi.  The Blue Jays currently have just under $49MM committed for 2011 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts) and have eight players eligible for arbitration.  Jose Bautista will get the biggest raise of this group, but even with notables like Yunel Escobar and Brandon Morrow also arb-eligible, the Jays should have a bit of money left to spend beyond settling their arbitration cases.
  • Perhaps the Jays' extra money could be spent on Brian Fuentes?  We heard about Toronto's interest in Fuentes earlier this week, and now SI's Jon Heyman tweets that the Jays are still "pressing for" the free agent reliever.
  • Did Scott Boras wait too long for a Rafael Soriano market to develop?  Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson thinks this might be the case, and that Soriano might have to settle another one-year contract with the hopes of finding a long-term deal next offseason.
  • A bit of early reaction to Tampa Bay's agreement with Kyle Farnsworth: CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler thinks the signing is risky, but believes the Rays need to take chances on their bullpen if they want to contend.  Meanwhile, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks the Rays made a better deal for Farnsworth than Boston did with Bobby Jenks, given that Farnsworth and Jenks put up comparable numbers over the last two seasons.
  • Bronson Arroyo tells Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he enjoyed pitching for the Red Sox and wouldn't mind returning: "Even though I can safely say that I’ve cemented myself in Cincinnati for a while, [Boston] definitely still feels like home and in the back of my mind I know that there is no better place to play than in Fenway Park."  Arroyo said when his three-year extension with the Reds runs out after the 2013 season, he would be interested in pitching for the Rays (to play close to his family), returning to the Red Sox, or staying in Cincinnati.
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli has details on the vesting option included in Kevin Gregg's contract with the Orioles.  Gregg's 2013 option will become guaranteed if he finishes 50 games in 2012, or if he finishes 100 games total in 2011-12.  As SI's Jon Heyman tweeted in the previous link, Gregg will earn between $6-$10MM in 2013 if his option vests.
  • Matt Bush, the first overall pick of the 2004 draft, talks to MLB.com's Dawn Klemish about his battle with alcoholism and the progress he's made in the Tampa Bay organization.

Olney On Qualls, Balfour, Damon, Pavano, Soriano

Ivan Nova, Craig Kimbrel and Madison Bumgarner are among the young players who will play major roles in determining their teams’ fates in 2011, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney points out. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors, with the latest updates up top:

  • Olney hears that Chad Qualls is looking to re-establish his value with a one-year deal (Twitter link). With all due respect to Qualls, finding a mutliyear deal might never have been an option, since he posted a 7.32 ERA and allowed 85 hits in 59 innings last year.
  • Teams believe Grant Balfour's asking price is dropping, according to Olney (Twitter link).
  • Once Jim Thome signs, other first base/DH types will likely follow. There are lots of them out there, as MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker shows. Vladimir Guerrero, Jason Giambi, Russell Branyan, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez are still available.
  • Olney says Damon “probably made a mistake in not following up on the Yankees' overtures last winter about a two-year deal.”
  • Carl Pavano and the Twins continue to make progress toward a deal and the sides could reach an agreement by the end of the week.
  • Rafael Soriano is prioritizing money over his 2011 role, Olney writes. Olney suggests that “if some club was willing to pay him to be its bullpen catcher for $45MM over the next three years, Soriano would consider it.”