Yesterday, when Joe outlined our thoughts on Mariano Rivera’s contract situation, I figured we had written everything that needed to be said on the issue. In an effort to exact some measure of juvenile revenge, Rivera was keeping the Yankees and their overly generous three-year, $45 million offer waiting for a few days. I thought Rivera would just sign the deal and let bygones be bygones.
So much for that.
According to a report by Pete Caldera, Rivera is serious on testing the market and wants a $50-million offer. According to the article, Rivera and his agent Fernando Cuza want a deal north of $16 million a season because they feel Mariano, who just wrapped up a three-year, $31.5 million deal, was underpaid as a closer.
On the Yankees’ side of the aisle, Hank Steinbrenner issued a fairly strong statement in which the Yankees basically said that the current offer is their final one to Mariano. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s a tremendous offer for a 38-year-old relief pitcher,” Steinbrenner said. “He’ll be, by $4 million, the highest-paid relief pitcher in baseball, by far. I don’t know what the holdup is. The ball’s in their court.”
It’s hard to argue with Hank’s logic right there. Rivera and Cuza want the future Hall of Famer to be rewarded for what he’s accomplished. At 38 and not getting any younger, Rivera will not put up $16-million seasons throwing 60-70 innings out of the bullpen. He showed some decline in 2007, and there’s every reason to believe that decline will continue throughout the three years of this deal.
Meanwhile, Rivera’s deal or lack thereof will impact the Yankees. As Caldera reports, the team wants Joba Chamberlain in the rotation this year. While they view him as a potential closer of the future, for now, they’d rather see him starting. They can more easily manage their young phenom’s work load as a starter.
But when all is said and done, Mariano Rivera is expendable. Steven Goldman lays out his case against the importance of Rivera in today’s New York Sun. Goldman’s point is that Rivera’s save percentage isn’t noticeably better than a pitcher the Yanks could theoretically find in the farm system or on the open market. Making Rivera at this stage in his career the third highest paid pitcher in baseball is antithetical to the Yanks’ current trend toward younger and more cost-efficient players.
As Joe said in this space yesterday, Rivera is really pushing his luck with the Yanks. In my opinion, Rivera and Cuza should be hard pressed to find another team willing to extend Rivera to three years for this amount of money. They are simply holding up the Yankees to a double standard because they feel the team couldn’t take the PR hit of losing Rivera. It’s a pretty shameless bargaining ploy considering how generous the current offer is.
Right now, the Yanks could offer a lower deal to Rivera, and if it’s three years at over $12 million a year, I’m sure it would still be the highest deal Rivera’s camp receives. So really, as this saga drags on, Rivera should sign his contract. He’s going to run out of good will in New York soon, and the Yankees and their fans will slowly wake up to the inevitable truth that Rivera’s presence on the team is not as necessary as the great closer would have us believe.