First off, how is everyone? I know a large portion of our readership is certainly in the Tri-State Area and I hope you and yours are doing well. Now, let’s get onto some baseball matters as a nice distraction.
As you probably could’ve guessed by midseason, Rafael Soriano has officially opted out of his contract with the Yankees. ACcording to that same link, the Yankees will give Soriano a qualifying offer (which he likely won’t accept) and are willing to give him a two year contract. In the simplest of terms, there are a few ways that this can shake out:
1. The Best Case Scenario:
In this scenario, the Yankees get their cake and eat it, too. They get Mariano Rivera back on a one year deal and Soriano takes the qualifying offer. That would give the team two dynamite back-end bullpen options and keep them free, moneywise, for 2014 and Plan 189. Short term commitments to relief pitchers are more than desirable; a one year commitment each to a duo of two great relievers would be downright fantastic. I won’t attach a number to it, but the chances of this happening seem as high as any of us reaching base against a Major League breaking ball.
2. The Second Best Case Scenario:
Rivera returns and Soriano takes the two year deal. The commitment to Soriano isn’t long and it gives the Yankees an option at closer for 2014 when Rivera (presumably) retires. Like the above scenario, this option is pretty unlikely to actually happen.
3. The Mixed Bag Scenario:
This is the one that seems most likely, and it features just one of these talented pitchers returning to pinstripes. If I had to guess, I’d say it’ll be Rivera who returns and Soriano who does not. If that happens, I’m sure i’ll be because Soriano has gotten a three-plus year contract somewhere else. If/when that happens, who will be able to blame him? No one. Of course, it’s also possible that Mo retires and Soriano is the one who stays.
In all three of those scenarios, the bullpen order is pretty predictable. Rivera closes if he’s there and Soriano closes if he is and Mo isn’t. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma, and Boone Logan do their middle-relief things and we’ll all be on our merry little way. Then there’s…
4. The Not-so-pleasant Scenario:
Rivera retires. Soriano leaves for another team. While this prospect would probably ruin the bullpens of most teams, it merely hurts the Yankees (though it wouldn’t exactly be a small pain to endure). This would leave the Yankees with a few options. Aardsma has closing experience, but I doubt they’d hand the reins to him since he’s pitched so few innings of late. Joba was once anointed as the closer-of-the-future, but do they really trust him that much? Robertson would probably be fine, but do they trust his new found control? Do they trust him enough overall? Any of these three could probably do a fine job closing and if Rivera does retire and Soriano does leave, I’m sure one of them will be tried out in that role. And while I think any of these three could perform (more than) ably, it would still be a step down in bullpen strength. For that, the Yankees could look to the free-agent market to help add to the bullpen depth.
The Royals declined their option on Joakim Soria, who missed all of 2012 after requiring Tommy John Surgery. As I’m sure many have said by now (sorry if I can’t credit you; I’ve been Internet-blind for some time now!), giving him a contract heavily loaded in incentives would be a great move; I’m sure all 30 teams, including the Royals, will be after Soria. There is another Tommy John patient worth kicking the tires on with a similar deal, and that’s Ryan Madson. Yes, I’m getting a bit video game-ish with the ‘load your bullpen with former closers’ rosterbating here, but I think both of those guys are realistic options. They’d be most valuable in the ‘doomsday’ no Mo/no Soriano scenario, but even if Rivera and Soriano do return, the Yankees should take a look at Soria and Madson.