Brian Cashman sure slow-played this one.
Despite insisting last week that the Yankees would not surrender their first round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft in order to sign a remaining Type A free agent, the Bombers agreed to terms on Thursday night with reliever Rafael Soriano. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the deal will be worth a whopping $35 million over three years.
Soriano said earlier this month that he would only be willing to accept a non-closer position with one team — the Yankees — because of his respect and admiration for longtime reliever Mariano Rivera. And now he’ll get the opportunity to serve as an eighth-inning bridge to Mo for at least the next two seasons. If Rivera decides to retire after his current two-year, $30 million contract runs out, the 31-year-old Soriano can assume closing duties for a year and ratchet up his free agent value heading into the winter of 2014.
Soriano posted a gorgeous 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 64 appearances as the Rays’ closer last season, racking up an American League best 45 saves in 48 chances. He has fanned a ridiculous 159 batters in his past 138 innings and has walked only 41.
All in all, he is one of the best relief pitchers in the game.
It is a crazy contract, there’s no denying that. The money is too big and the Cashman-led Yankees are usually a bit wiser about handing out major amounts of cash and years to relievers not named Mo Rivera. But the Yankees can afford to be a bit reckless with their cash because of their many lucrative revenue streams and there is little doubt that the move means an overall improvement for the club.
Opponents are going to have a really tough time plotting late-game comebacks against New York in 2011.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.