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.

Watch: Javier Baez snares a 106-MPH ground ball

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What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Just ask Javier Baez, who tracked down a sizzling 106-MPH ground ball from Jose Bautista on Friday afternoon. The defensive gem helped preserve the Cubs’ three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, paving the way for Wade Davis‘ 25th save of the season.

Baez also impressed at the plate, collecting an RBI single in the second inning before getting tagged out at home by Miguel Montero on a convoluted 9-6-3-6-2 putout. He returned in the eighth inning to pester Tim Mayza and cleared the left field hedge with a 409-foot, two-run blast for his 20th home run of the year. With the win, the Cubs improved to 64-57 and now hold a scant 1.5-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central.

Dodgers activate Adrian Gonzalez

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The Dodgers have reinstated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list after his recovery from a herniated disc. To make room for him they have optioned Rob Segedin to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Gonzalez last played on June 11. Since then the Dodgers have gone an astounding 46-9, with shoe-in rookie of the year candidate Cody Bellinger handling first base duties and posting a .978 OPS. When Gonzalez went down he was hitting .255/.304/.339 and only one homer in 49 games.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time he gets going forward. The Dodgers, of course, have a comfortable lead in the NL West, so they could afford to allow Gonzalez to play a good bit to see if his bat sharpens up while simultaneously giving Bellinger, who has never played more than 137 games in a season, a bit of a breather. Beyond that, though, the Dodgers ain’t broke, so it’s hard to see why anyone would want to tinker with things.