Since the offseason began, one thing that’s been taken as a given more than any other expected outcome was that, should Rafael Soriano opt out of the final year of the contract he signed after the 2010 season, the Yankees would be unwilling to give him a multi-year contract as they try to get under the luxury tax threshold before 2014. And for the most part that’s exactly what all reports have said to date, but now Jon Heyman dishes that the Yankees would be “amenable” to a two year contract after all. There’s not a lot of detail there, just that they don’t feel inclined to put two years on the table just yet, but apparently might if they feel like they need to/can get a good deal on bringing Soriano back.
On the other hand, Joel Sherman reports that teams are finally wising up to how fungible closers are, and speculates that the market for them could be pretty dry in comparison to recent years. That hasn’t stopped Scott Boras from seeking a four year, $60 million contract for Soriano, however, at least if Randy Levine is to be believed.
All in all, I think there’s a little bit of truth to both reports. I do suspect that teams are realizing you don’t have to spend big money on free agents to build a strong bullpen, and that the value of an “established closer” is wildly overrated, but at the same times there are enough deep pocket contenders in need of relief help that Soriano should probably be able to find a job pretty easily, so long as he doesn’t price himself out of the market. Then again, that’s what Boras did with Ryan Madson last year, and Soriano before that, so that’s certainly not a given.
As for the Yankees, I just can’t see them handing out more than one year to a reliever of Soriano’s caliber right now. The 2014 austerity mandate means that sacrifices will have to be made somewhere, and a bullpen that’s already strong on paper with the players under control is a good place to start. Soriano makes plenty of sense as an insurance policy/heir apparent to Mariano Rivera if he’s willing to continue playing that role for at least one more season, but that’s a luxury the Yankees can’t afford under current plans. It would certainly be curious, to put it mildly, for the Yankees to bring back Soriano while Nick Swisher and (possibly) Russell Martin leave, given the quality of the Yankees’ bullpen at the moment.