Yankees agree to deal with Rafael Soriano

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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.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.