Rafael Soriano will not accept his $13.3m qualifying offer, and the Yankees look destined to bring Mariano Rivera back for at least the 2013 season. The team will lose one great closer, and gain back the greatest closer. Still, they could have used the type of reliable setup man they lost when Soriano was promoted to closer, and Cory Wade was demoted to Triple-A.
The outlook for next season has Rivera closing and David Robertson setting up for him in the 8th inning. With Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, they figure to compete for late inning relief work. Despite the upside of both players, they represent lottery tickets with their injury history. Guys like Boone Logan, Cody Eppley, and Clay Rapada did their part in 2012, but it’s hard to imagine any of them emerging as a high-leverage reliever. The Yankees have the opportunity to now hedge their bets on Chamberlain and Aardsma, and throw in a third lottery ticket.
Once upon a time, Joakim Soria was one of the best closers in the game. In 2010, the Yankees attempted to trade for him, eyeing what could have been the best setup man in the game, and perhaps the heir to Rivera. Soria would end up sticking with the Royals, and posting a 1.78 ERA, a 2.53 FIP, and 43 saves in 46 attempts.
2011 was a shaky season for the right hander. Over his first two months he saw a velocity decrease, and by May 30th he earned a 6.55 ERA with 5 blown saves under his belt, he was demoted to the 8th inning. By July, Soria’s velocity returned and he was reinstated as a closer, but from June to the end of the season, he pitched to a 2.58 ERA with just 2 blown saves.
Before the 2012 season could even begin, Soria started battling elbow problems. On April 3rd, he underwent Tommy John surgery, which effectively ended his season and caused the Royals to decline his 2013 option. With a recovery rate of over 90% from the surgery, he now represents one of the most alluring low-risk/high-reward players in free agency.
The question would now be whether the 28 year old wants to make his return in the Bronx. His answer is an emphatic “Yes”. As a closer who also lives off his cutter, Soria considers Rivera as an idol, and with #42’s possible retirement around the corner, 2013 may be the Mexicutioner’s only opportunity to pitch along with the Sandman.
“If the Yankees call, we will be all ears,” Soria’s agent, Oscar Suarez, said by phone Monday. “If there is a fit, Joakim would be elated to work with Mo. He would close everywhere except there.”
Soria’s agent also stated to ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand that his agent is “not a greedy individual,” and he is waiting for the right situation. This indicates that he may be more wiling to sign a contract based on teams, rather than how much he’s offered.
The Yankees seem to have the upper hand in the Soria market, but signing him would be a luxury for a team on the verge of a budget. Although it would be nice to have him for the 2013 season, he is only expected to return around May or June of next season. He’s also in the same questionable injury category as Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma. If Cashman can milk a second year or more out of a contract, set up a cheapish high-leverage reliever for the 2014 budget, and all goes well with his recovery, this seems like an exciting no-brainer for the Yankees.