Yanks to sign Rafael Soriano

Now, let’s discuss the dollars, because as we also discussed the other day, Soriano was signing for the most money regardless of role.  Tyler Kepner has the details, via Twitter:

If Soriano opts out after 1 yr, he gets $11.5M. If he opts out after yr 2, he gets $21.5M total. If he stays all 3, he gets $35M.

Thirty-five million [UPDATE: $10m in 2011, $11m in 2012, $14m in 2013]. In a vacuum, I like Soriano and adding him to the bullpen will undoubtedly help shorten games and give Girardi the ability to rest Mo as needed. However, that’s a metric crap-ton of cash for a set-up guy.  Of course, this shouldn’t impact the Yanks’ ability to do whatever else they need to do, either before the season or during.

On the flip side, the opt-outs are also fine by me. If Soriano wants to skedaddle after 2011 and look for more cash, fine.

RAB wizard and contributor to MLBTR, Mike Axisa, compresses the good and bad here:

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.

So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The other problem that I have is not that we lose the draft pick, but it’s that we’re gift wrapping it to the Rays, who are already stockpiling picks in what is acknowledged to be a very deep draft:

@SPTimesRays: With #Yanks No. 31 pick, #Rays now will have 3 picks in 1st round of draft, nine before start of second

That bums me out but it’s the cost of doing business, right or wrong. But who really pulled the trigger here?

Soriano’s stats, and they are impressive:

Year Age Tm ERA G SV IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 SO/BB
2002 22 SEA 4.56 10 1 47.1 94 1.289 8.6 1.5 2.00
2003 23 SEA 1.53 40 1 53.0 283 0.792 5.1 0.3 5.67
2004 24 SEA 13.50 6 0 3.1 37 3.600 24.3 0.0 1.00
2005 25 SEA 2.45 7 0 7.1 179 0.955 7.4 0.0 9.00
2006 26 SEA 2.25 53 2 60.0 198 1.083 6.6 0.9 3.10
2007 27 ATL 3.00 71 9 72.0 146 0.861 5.9 1.5 4.67
2008 28 ATL 2.57 14 3 14.0 168 1.143 4.5 0.6 1.78
2009 29 ATL 2.97 77 27 75.2 139 1.057 6.3 0.7 3.78
2010 30 TBR 1.73 64 45 62.1 228 0.802 5.2 0.6 4.07
9 Seasons 2.73 342 88 395.0 156 1.000 6.3 0.9 3.58
162 Game Avg. 2.73 66 17 77 156 1.000 6.3 0.9 3.58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table; Generated 1/13/2011.

Low WHIP, low HR rate, very strong K:BB ratio. All good stuff. Injury history is there, though.  Here’s what Mark Simon from ESPN Stats & Info has to say:

“Soriano’s specific strength is getting right-handed hitters out. Among active pitchers, no one has a better opponents batting average (.162), on-base percentage (.225), or OPS (.506) against right-handers than Soriano. Over the last three seasons, he’s been even better, holding right-handed batters to a .132 batting average.

Soriano throws a fastball that averages around 93 miles-per-hour. His breaking ball is very tough. He threw it for a strike 73 percent of the time in 2010, the best rate in the majors according to our Inside Edge video tracking. Hitters chased 41 percent of the breaking balls Soriano threw out of the strike zone, well above the major league average of 29 percent.”

So how do you view this signing?  Love it, hate it?

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

28 thoughts on “Yanks to sign Rafael Soriano

  1. Good thing I double checked before I posted. :)

    Rays or not, Soriano is more valuable than a bottom of the 1st round pick (and the Rays would have gotten the two picks anyway. Sooner or later someone was going to get a deal done with Soriano). My red flag would be the size of the deal, but given that a) Soriano will probably pitch some high leverage innings and b) Cashman knows his budget much more than I do, I'll refrain from criticizing that.

    I guess that means I love it, as much as you can love signing a free agent relief pitcher anyway.

    • How does the draft pick compensation work if he opts out of the Yanks deal?

      • If he opts out he's a Yankee free agent. They'll be able to offer him arbitration and get picks back if he goes somewhere else.

        • Good. That's what I thought but wasn't 100% sure.

          • Buuuuuuuut….the new CBA will almost certainly alter the compensation pick structure in such a way that hardly any relievers, if any of them at all, qualify for Type A status.

          • LarryAtIIATMS

            With Soriano making this kind of money, it's hard for me to imagine that the player's union is going to invest much negotiating capital to get the Type A status rules relaxed. It might have been different if some prominent Type A free agent got hung up to dry because no one thought he was worth the loss of a first-round draft pick.

    • Cory

      I like your point about the Rays getting the picks anyway. Had it been someone other than the Yankees signing him, it (most likely) would have been a higher first round pick as well. They get a lower pick and the Yankees get a lights out bullpen.

      Will Joba be considered for the open rotation spot or no?

  2. Rosie

    Solid move by the Yanks, provided:
    1) Soriano stays healthy and
    2) Soriano repeats his 2010 performance.

    Since it's the Yankees, who don't face the same financial constraints as others, I'm not sure the money is a big deal. But, I'm curious as to whether they were bidding against anyone else, or they just paid what it took

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Rosie, I'm not picking on you. Your opinion is echoed by most others: it's just the Yankees, so money is no big deal.

      I've been laboring here for what feels like years (but is more like months) to show that the Yankees are a business just like any other, meaning that the business will fail if money is not spent wisely. To say that the Yankees are spending TWICE what Soriano is worth is to give the Yankees the benefit of the doubt. The deal only makes sense if Soriano ends up closing for the Yanks at a league-topping level of productivity, at which point Soriano has the right to opt out.

      I hate to be the voice of doom here, but this kind of spending will catch up even to the Yankees.

  3. Jerkface

    Dislike it on a business side due to the extreme costs and the marginal impact(Yankees already win 92% of their games when leading at the start of the 8th) but I like it as a baseball move, because he is good. If he doesn't die of course.

    • Quote of the day:

      If he doesn't die of course.

      stands, applauds.

      • jay_robertson

        If he dies, do we still have to pay him? Or is that like an opt-out?

        • Damian

          Normally the death of a party to a contract releases obligations under the contract. Not sure if the CBA deals with that issue or what the actual Soriano contract might say.

  4. Marcus

    I'm happy with it, although Cashman insisted that he wouldn't sign Soriano, less and less free agents are available on the market especially of Soriano's caliber. I believe this acquisition has two good points;
    1. Soriano can immediately step in for Mo if for some reason age suddenly catches up with him (Knock on wood)
    2. Puts less pressure on Joba to be the shut down man on the bridge to Rivera. Hopefully we will see a turn around with him.

    Whats the chances we can see Soriano pitch the 7th and 8th innings? Or should we just expect another 60ish innings pitched for 2011?

  5. Damian

    Yankees STARTING pitching was maybe not playoff caliber. Relief pitching is fine. Soriano makes the team better, and there were no terrific options out there to make the rotation better, but sometimes no deal is better than a deal. I hope I'm wrong, but 60 good innings a year is not worth $12M + pick.

  6. HIM

    "If he doesn't die of course." is the quote year of the year…how much would a $35,000,000 3 year whole life policy cost…has to be a broker out there.

  7. LarryAtIIATMS

    I don't like this deal. I haven't disliked a Yankee deal this much in a long time.

    The cost to the Yanks is $35 MM in salary, plus at least a 40% hit for the luxury tax (this may get worse, the tax may be about to increase), plus the loss of the first round draft pick, estimated here as being worth $6.5 MM. http://bit.ly/eSmLjz. Total cost for Soriano: $55.5 million. This for a guy who produced 1.6 fWAR last year in the closer's role. I'm doing the math in my head, but that's $12 million a win, IF Soriano can be as productive next year in the role of the 8th inning setup guy, and IF he can manage to stay healthy for three years. That's more than twice as much as the Yankees were talking about paying for Cliff Lee's projected WAR.

    Then there are the opt-outs, which may not make the deal any worse, but certainly run in favor of Soriano.

    I hope I am wrong, but this deal smacks of desperation. The deal MAY make the team better, but at a cost I find staggering.

    • jay_robertson

      Agreed – the only thing that the Yankees have done – is SOMETHING. To shut up everyone who wanted them to do SOMETHING in the off-season – here it is. At twice the price they needed to pay, with bizarre opt-out clauses.

      But now, at least for a day, everyone can say the Yankees are better, without delving into the numbers as you have (shame on you) and discovering how little better they will be, and at what cost.

      • I think we get too far down our own rabbit holes on these things sometimes. Unless you're up late at night worrying about how much money Hal Steinbrenner is going to bank this year, there's really no reason to worry about how much money they're paying Soriano. It's not going to keep them from making another move if they want to.

        And if they pair the signing by moving Joba back to the rotation, it looks a lot better.

      • Dave

        Any time you can give up a 1st-round pick and $35 million for a setup man with no other offers, you have to do it. ijs.

  8. Elliot

    I like the signing.

    The team is better than it was yesterday, and the farm system isn't worse. There is coverage for a perceived strength that was largely focused on a 41-year-old doing things we really haven't seen before. Opt outs = 2 picks following what had to be one or more good years from Soriano. And really, what's the big deal if they overpaid a bit? How many of us will ultimately be affected directly?

    I too hope that this means Joba will start. Or be traded for a starter. Even if that doesn't happen, they'll win more games than they would have otherwise, and Girardi will be very excited by additional opportunities to make pitching changes.

    I'm a bit disappointed in Cashman making out-and-out false statements. Why say anything at all? Did it really help his bargaining position? I do wonder if he was overruled a bit, since this does go against some of his tenets.

  9. Pedro

    Happy the Yanks FINALLY did something significant this offseason.I hope we can get something useful for Joba. I don't see him starting every other year.

  10. Jim

    Ignoring the issue of giving up your draft pick, I like it.
    I see Soriano's salary as the going rate for a quality set up guy plus an insurance premium to ensure that we have a quality closer if something happens to Mo — during the year or after. Mo is older and more susceptable to injury. He can't close every day. Soriano will pitch enough to earn his salary.

    Plus, Soriano becomes even more important if you make it to the playoffs.

    Then again, there is that 1st round pick.

    • The best players ever taken with the 31st pick, measured by career WAR:

      Greg Maddux (P) 96.9
      Jarrod Washburn (P) 26.1
      Kirt Manwaring (C) 4.6

      Seriously, I really can't say this enough: the pick means nothing. At all.

      • LarryAtIIATMS

        First round pick is worth $6.5 million, per the very smart guys at BizofBaseball. You can disagree with them around the margins, but the value of a first round pick is in the millions of dollars by any estimation.

  11. Mike T

    Wow I thought it was interesting (according to ESPNNY's Wallace Matthews) how Mo apparently went to bat and convinced the Yanx brass to sign Soriano: http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/columns/st

  12. Marc

    How many people can honestly name the last 1st round pick of the Yanks! I know I can't. As Yankee fans, we NEVER have #1 picks, b/c we always sign some big free agent! And this is not a high pick like missing out on a Jeter with a #6 overall pick. This is #31, so relax.

    FYI, last Yankee #1 pick to make an impact: Joba. And where is he right now? Currently not good enough to pitch in the 8th inning or even share the 8th inning. Hell, he'll be in the 6th/7th with Robertson and Feliciano in situational pitching, since Soriano and Mo arent affected by situational pitching.

    And if Soriano's a bust?!? Then it costs us $1M more per year than Pavano did and the huge bust Pavano was NEVER impacted the Yanks ability to make other moves, so stop whining everyone! Trust me, when it's mid-season and some team that's out of it wants to trade their own "Cliff Lee/Mark Teixeira, etc.", the Yanks won't be out of it b/c of their budget and/or this deal.

    Love the signing! It's all about the money, BUT NOT MY MONEY!

  13. Johnny62

    I think this might be step one to Joba getting shown the door out

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