Sign Soriano

Despite Brian Cashman’s recent admission, that the bullpen is not an “area of obvious need,” today Buster Olney (ESPN) writes that the Yankees “No. 1 area of focus, beyond the Damon/Matsui realm: their bullpen. They will look for two relievers, in all likelihood.” This is a strange comment, as the team’s second real need “beyond the Damon/Matsui realm” seems to be fleshing out their rotation (Cashman said as much yesterday), but Olney’s assertion certainly make sense when you consider the relief realities that the Yankees will ultimately have to account for next season.

First, if we are to believe that the Yankees will use him as a starter in 2010, then the team will feature a bullpen absent an effective Phil Hughes (he was worth 2.2 WAR as a reliever). Plus, outside of Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and a healthy Damaso Marte, you’re not really sure what to expect of Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves and, dare I say, Brian Bruney next season. Furthermore, having some effective depth, and specifically effective veteran depth (which was sorely missed in the postseason), in the bullpen will allow the Yankees to employ Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes as starters, rather than relievers (for the entire season). For these reasons, I do think that the Yankees will and should look to bolster their bullpen, however, adding two relievers, as Olney suggests, probably won’t occur as even one deal can be a risky proposition (e.g., Farnsworth, Hawkins, etc.). Still, adding just one reliever can work if it’s the right guy.

This winter, I believe Rafael Soriano is the right guy.

After having two surgical procedures conducted on his right elbow last summer—ulnar ligament transposition and bone spur removal—the hard-throwing righty missed most of the 2008 season and failed to build on a strong ’07 campaign. However, in 2009, Soriano returned with a vengeance, as he split time closing games for Atlanta with Mike Gonzalez earlier in the year, and then ran away with the closer role later in the season. Thanks to a ferocious mid-90’s fastball and a sharp slider, he posted a 2.97 ERA (2.54 FIP) over 75 2/3 innings pitched, saving 27 games while striking out 102 hitters (that’s a K/9 of 12.13). Basically, when he’s healthy, Soriano is one of the best relievers in baseball and, as Keith Law (ESPN) noted, he is currently “the best reliever on the market, and better than any of the closers available on last winter’s market, including the vaunted K-Rod.” The only real knocks on Soriano are his health history—not only did he have elbow surgery last year, he also had Tommy John surgery in 2004, causing him to miss ’04-05—and his price tag, after establishing himself as a closer with the Braves. It is important to note, though, that the 29-year old has been healthy for 3 of the last 4 years, and he has not explicitly stated that he hopes to continue closing in 2010.

If the Yankees were to sign anyone to help the team’s relief corps, it seems as though Soriano would be an extremely good fit given his dominant skill set. He’s a young, powerful arm, capable of pitching in high leverage situations, and could serve as the bridge to Mariano Rivera. By adding an effective reliever of Soriano’s ilk, the New York bullpen would be deepened to the point where utilizing Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes for relief outs would become a thing of the past. If Buster Olney is correct and the Yankees intend on looking for “two relievers” this winter, they might as well put all of their multimillion dollar eggs into one particularly talented basket and sign the best reliever available.

Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images

21 thoughts on “Sign Soriano

  1. I wouldn’t be upset if they did this, but I don’t think it is a desperate need. I’d be fine going into the season with open competition between the pieces they have, particularly because my general feeling is that big contracts for relievers rarely work as you might have hoped.

    • Agreed. I forgot to mention that Soriano is a Type-A pick, too. So, he’ll cost money and a draft pick. I would probably still sign him, though.

    • Technically the way this free agent market is Soriano could end up being one of the most expensive pieces we sign depending on what goes on with Chapman…

      Starting pitcher- Ben Sheets- 1 year deal
      Outfield- Mike Cameron- 1 year deal
      Pettitte- 1 year deal
      Hideki Matsui- 1 year deal

      Which would give you the room necessary to sign Soriano to a 3 year deal or so… Now obviously if they go a more expensive route (Lackey or Holliday) or they end up trading for a pitcher (Halladay, Hernandez etc…) then it changes but I could see a scenario where the 1 year deal ends up being the motto of the offseason and would both save money but also save spaces for young guys next year by not clogging up the roster with guys who will be here 5+ years.

  2. One thing people are missing is that it is very likely that either Joba or Phil will be back in the pen in Aug/Sept of 2010. There has been little evidence that either, let alone both, will last the entire season as a starter. Does that change anyone’s opinion? If the Yanks do land a starting pitcher and resign Andy, there will be a seat next to Mo w/ one of their names on it.

    • That may be true, but that is probably not the plan. The plan is almost certainly to have them start all year.

      • Well, if the plan is to have BOTH Joba and Phil pitch consistently well for the ENTIRE season, giving the Yanks a chance to win each time they take the mound…I hope there is a plan B. I know they have it in them, it just seems like a long shot.

        • To be honest, if one of them is ineffective, I would rather see them go back to the minors and toil away as a starter there then to the bullpen. I think it would be better for their development in the long-run.

          • I agree. I’d love to see these kids get the chance to develop that they deserve.
            Does anyone feel the Yanks were extremely lucky that CC, AJ and Andy all pitched over 190 innings? If either Joba or Phil are ineffective (very likely), and there is an injury to one of the veterans, the starting rotation is going to be a mess in ‘10. There appears to be many more band aids in the organization for the set up guy than there are for a starting pitcher. The yanks were one Wells’ back spasm away from a 2 man rotation in October.

          • I agree totally.

            We need another dependable starter. It will be interesting to see in which direction the Yankees head.

            It will sort itself out in next month.

          • I would either like to see the Yankees sign a buy low guy preferably Sheets or trade for Granderson and add Edwin Jackson to the trade, I don’t believe he will put up the numbers he did this year but with his velocity he is more than a good number 4 starter who can pitch in the playoffs.




  3. Soriano is A type, Chan-ho Park is B type…
    Park’s FIP 2.10 in the pen;; He has no homer at citizenbank (think new stadium)…
    3.25 K/BB, 10>=K PER 9, Ground-baller, In phili, he’s a seven ining guy and swing-men type.
    When even he’s struggled, he’s nice aganist Yanks and red-sucks.

    How about Park?

      • Right, he wannabe a starter, but he also said that he was eager to acquire a championring at contender team though he shold be in the pen

        I think he has a setup/closer skill sets but has tended aganist lefty since he was a extreme stater.

        Thanks your answer~~!!

        • He’s on a contending team and on one in which he has no competition for the division so he is almost assured a playoff berth on the Phillies so if he is going back into the pen I really can’t see him doing it for another team.

          Park had a 4.43 ERA this year with opposing batters hitting .260+ off him, Park is an ok pitcher but in the AL East I don’t think he stands out at all and I would rather have Robertson and Marte setup over Park.

  4. It is natural for many of us to ponder about the big fish on the FA market – Holliday and Lackey, in particular. Even Chapman if you want to go that far.

    But it is key to remember that the bullpen also needs reinforcements. I love guys like KRob and feel that he in particular will do a good job next year, but that’s also leaving a bit too much to chance. Signing someone of Soriano’s calibre would likely only help. Soriano, like KRob, is a K-machine, just a bit better on the whole. If he’s willing to take an 8th inning role, Yankees should jump all over that.

  5. Some notable names missing here… Mark Melancon, and Michael Dunn… Also if you want a reliever, a quality reliever dont go after Soriano, signing Soriano will be Kyle Farnseworth V 2.0 we have the chips necessary to make a trade for Heath Bell or David Aardsma

    And enough of this Joba and Phil dont have it in them to be starters nonsense… They are kids… in there early 20’s… You know who doesnt have it in them… Kei Igawa, Jeff Weaver, Jose Conteras. Joba and Phil are learning… and Joba learned a lot this year and I think P.Hugh will learn a lot in 2010

    • Mark Melancon is in no way ready for the 8th inning, everyone wants to act like he can just shake off last year like it never happened, the guy was scared on the mound! He hit 4 people in 16 big league innings… He had 6 HBP in 53 IP in triple A this year so in total he had 10 hit batters in 69 IP in 2009… He will improve but it is very wishful thinking to believe he can go from that to lock down setup man in1 year.

      Heath Bell who plays in one of the biggest parks in baseball then having to go to a homer friendly park like Yankee stadium? Doubtful! Lefties slugged .384 against Bell last year with 2 HRs in a very friendly park, lefties will tear him up in Yankee Stadium, if we are trading for Bell let’s just work internally.

      I am so tired of every free agent pitcher who throws hard being Kyle Farnsworth… So signing someone to pitch in the 8th failed once, should we never sign another player?

      Did you really compare Igawa to Contreras? The two aren’t even close and Contreras has proven to be a much better starter than either Joba or Hughes has hinted at yet.

      Joba can learn all he wants if he doesn’t start throwing harder than 91 MPH he is a bullpen piece, and the scary part is he isn’t even a closer in training as it stands because he is only throwing 93-96 in the pen. Joba needs to get on top of this velocity thing or he is average in every role. I believe in Joba but he has to get his velocity up or we are looking at someone who’s future is in the pen.

      • Dunn is a good young pitcher but he has some control issues to get over and I think he needs at least a half year in Scranton to get a full grip on his pitches and his mental part of the game, in the short cup of coffee he got at the end of last year he showed some good stuff but he was very wild and looked a little nervous, that is to be expected but I wouldn’t throw to much at him to soon… working him into the pen slowly, but in the long run he has a lot more potential that coke does.

    • I don’t think it would have an effect, the kid is about to be 21 and is very raw so he isn’t really on tap to be the next great Yankee CF god. Austin is the 27th ranked player in the minors they don’t compare…

      If Austin gets traded I would assume it would be in a deal netting a CF anyway.