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.