Yanks like Soriano, but probably won’t sign him

Thoughts on a weekend at George's
Montero vs. Santana

During their organizational meetings, the Yankees will likely discuss all free agent pitchers and left fielders. Some will make more sense than others, but the Yanks will discard most of the names as unrealistic for any number of reasons. One name I thought would make the scrap heap is Rafael Soriano. He’s probably the most attractive free agent relief pitcher, and adding him as Mariano Rivera‘s setup man would help the bullpen. There are other factors, however, that make Soriano less attractive to the Yankees.

In the last line of his latest article, George King notes that Soriano’s arm “has seduced some Yankee scouts.” That’s no surprise. He’s a strikeout machine while healthy, gassing hitters with a 93 mph fastball mixed with a slider. At his best, Soriano could close for most MLB teams. And, as Chris at iYankees notes, Soriano is no Kyle Farnsworth. That’s fine, but it doesn’t take into account the other factors that negatively affect Soriano.

Draft pick compensation is one of those issues. As Brian Cashman said on Tuesday, the team doesn’t plan to sign a Type A free agent setup man, because it would cost them their first round pick. For certain players, that pick is just a marginal cost of acquisition. When you want to add CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, or Mark Teixeira to your roster, you pay the draft pick tax without question. But when you get to players who will have less of an impact, it becomes more of a consideration.

Working against Soriano is his injury history. He stayed relatively healthy in 2009, missing time with a sore shoulder that didn’t require a DL trip. In 2008, however, he wasn’t so lucky, pitching just 14 innings while dealing with elbow troubles. These aren’t small issues. A hard-throwing reliever with arm problems is not someone to whom you want to commit many years and dollars. When there’s a draft pick tax attached on top of that, it’s a sign to stay clear.

Best case scenario, Soriano would give the Yankees the best setup man-closer combo in the game. But there are many other factors to consider beyond Soriano’s talent. There’s the cost of acquisition, consisting of total salary, luxury tax implications, and draft pick compensation. Is that worth the risk of Soriano missing even more time with arm troubles? I don’t think so. I’d love to see Soriano gassing guys in the eighth, but the cost of acquiring him is just too great.

Photo: Paul Spinelli / Getty Images

Thoughts on a weekend at George's
Montero vs. Santana
  • Steve H

    Seattle should have left him in the rotation. What a waste of a potential career as a starter.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Seattle should have left him in the rotation not traded him for Horacio Ramirez. What a waste of a potential career as a starter.

      Fixed that for you. Also, I remember Soriano having tons of arm injuries when he was younger, the starter thing might not have been realistic.

      • jsbrendog

        yeah if he still has arm troubles as a reliever then he probably would’ve been an absolute train wreck as a starter

      • Steve H

        Agree with the trade, but has anyone ever determined that starting is worse for your arm than relieving?

        They gave up on him as a starter after 2002 when he started 8 games in the majors. He then began to succumb to injuries in 2004-2005, after he had already been demoted to the pen.

        • Ed

          Agree with the trade, but has anyone ever determined that starting is worse for your arm than relieving?

          It seems to be the general case, but it’s probably not universally true. Some people cope better with regular rest, some people cope better with frequent short stints. See Smoltz – at different points in his career, he felt different things would help his body hold up.

          I’d guess part of the reason for relievers holding up better is pitch selection. Relievers usually drop their weaker breaking pitches and throw more fastballs, which is easier on your arm.

    • yanksfan02

      Sign Mike Gonzalez

  • The Evil Empire

    I still say Casman should’ve offered Arbitration to the one of the three guys least likely to accept it (Damon?) That way signing Soriano wouldn’t have been so painful.

    • Evil Empire

      whaaa….another Evil Empire?

      Oh boy.

      • The Evil Empire

        Was here first, just don’t post as much as you do;

        • Evil Empire

          Eh, if you don’t post that much it shouldn’t be a big deal then. Its all good.

          • JMK aka The Overshare

            You’re doing it wrong, Bo.

        • JMK aka The Overshare

          You’re doing it wrong, Lanny.

    • Zack

      That makes the assumption that another team would sign Damon, when he has much more value to the Yankees than any other team. Or you end up with Damon with a bloated contract because Boras learned his lesson from last offseason.

      • Chris

        Someone would sign him. He’s probably more valuable to the Yankees than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean he’s useless. The only question is whether he’d get more from another team than he could earn in arbitration. I don’t know that’s certain to happen, so there is a chance he would have accepted.

        • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          “Someone would sign him.”

          This. If the Yanks offered arbitration to Damon and Damon declined by December 7th, someone else would sign Damon. At the very worst, it’d turn into an Abreu 2009 situation, but someone would sign him.

      • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        No, it makes the assumption that Damon would decide to decline arbitration by December 7th. If he declined arbitration by December 7 there would be absolutely no chance that the Yanks would wind up with Damon on a bloated contract, unless they chose to (which they wouldn’t). If the Yanks offered arbitration to Damon and he accepted, then they’d be guaranteed to have Damon in 2010 on what would most likely be a bloated contract, money-wise.

        (Unless my understanding of the arbitration process is wrong, in which case I’m all ears.)

        • The Evil Empire

          And it’ll guarantee only a 1 year deal, it may have cost more for that one year of damon, but overall it would’ve been less of a liability to the yankees to have Damon on 1 year with a little extra money than two years for more money overall. But then again, Cashman may not want anything to do with Damon; Maybe he’s eyeing someone else to play LF?

      • The Evil Empire

        But the market appears to be better this year when compared to last, so Boras might actually decline. But yea, MIGHT is a scary word and there’s some risk involved, but i’d be willing.

  • Evil Empire

    Yanks like Soriano having a first round draft pick, but will probably won’t sign him

  • Rose

    Bullpen is the least of our needs at the moment. You always have a better chance of catching lightning in a bottle plucking from the farm crop and putting them in the bullpen. You can’t do the same with LF, DH, and SP.

    Signing Soriano is entirely unnecessary…especially if they’re viewing it as Priority Numero Uno.

    • Zack

      Who said a bullpen arm was priority #1?

      • Rose

        Who said it wasn’t?


  • Ellis

    We have David Robertson, the strikeout machine. Who needs Soriano?

  • Mattchu12

    I like the idea of looking at JJ Putz, Kiko Calero, Chan Ho Park, Justin Duchscherer, and Fernando Rodney among the free agent relief pitchers. Park impressed me during the playoffs as a reliever, and while Rodney always seems to be a risk of throwing a wild pitch or walking a guy, the talent is there to be a great reliever if he can improve his control. Putz has the talent, I’d like to think that 2009 was just a down year. Calero just looked filthy in the game that I saw him pitch.

    I’d like to bring one of those guys over to add to a strong late inning trio Damaso Marte and David Robertson. I also like Duke for the rotation.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I like the idea of looking at JJ Putz, Kiko Calero, Chan Ho Park, Justin Duchscherer, and Fernando Rodney among the free agent relief pitchers.

      Some other names to add to your list (who also have decent ability and no pick compensation:

      Kelvim Escobar
      Chad Cordero
      Octavio Dotel
      Darren Oliver

      And my sleeper: Kevin Gregg.

      There’s definitely some Farnsworth risk in him, but he was definitely a fairly good reliever for the Marlins the two years before last. His 2009 huge spike in HR allowed is probably a fluke, although the velocity is down, but he may be a guy who we can snag a la Brian Bruney and ride for a year or two during his bounceback until he (likely) crashes again.

      At the right price, Gregg’s a decent gamble.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        Chad Cordero

        I like him a lot, too. The labrum injury is scary, but I like Cordero a lot.

        • Scooter

          Depending on his medical reports, Escobar would be a nice under-the-radar pickup

          I remember seeing an article saying Dr Altchek advised him to return to relief work

          I recall reading that Dotel enjoyed working with Mo

          Pretty much any of the above is a decent gamble if the price is right

          • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

            Yeah, Escobar’s a good option, too.

            I’d like to see J-Dukes do the Al Aceves thing in ’10.

  • Jim

    David Roberston


    • ColoYank

      I am a big, big Dave Robertson fan, but unproven relievers are like some supposedly proven bullpen commodities – they are somewhat of a crapshoot year-to-year. There are very, very few relievers who aren’t. Don’t get me wrong; I hope and expect Robertson to be very effective. However, Phil is expected to go into spring training as a starter, Aceves had a hiccup or two late in the season (which I thought came from underuse), and that leaves you with Bruney, Gaudin, Melancon, and Romulo Sanchez from the right side. It seems to me that maybe one more arm would not necessarily be a bad thing. Should the Yanks spend a draft pick? Certainly not.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


        Don’t give up draft picks for middle relievers. That being said, have as many middle relievers as you can cram into your 40 man roster as possible, so that you have lots of options and can deal with the attrition. (Starters, as well)

        I’d love to be all over 1-4 non-Type-A pitchers this winter, both in the pen and in the rotation, preferably guys who would rehab/wait in Scranton while they rebuild their careers/value. Buy a few lottery tickets, see which one hits. Have options.

        • ColoYank

          Hello, my friend! Nice having your support here again. Your point is well made as usual. WE LIKE PITCHING DEPTH. So does Cash-money, too, I think.

    • Rose

      We were saying the same thing about Brian Bruney last year…and he was a huge disappointment.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        And because he was cheap and a solution that was arrived at internally, it didn’t kill the team when he was hurt/ineffective. If he was an expensive FA signing, that would’ve been bad news.

        • Rose

          Exactly. Oh, I agree with giving Robertson a shot…but I do feel that since he was also there last year WITH Hughes and/or Joba in the pen…without them…there should be another decent bullpen arm (not signed for a lot of money). BUT, that being said, I still think finding a LF, DH, and perhaps SP is more important. You can make due with the bullpen for now.

  • Accent Shallow

    The only way I’d be interested in Soriano is if the Yankees had already signed a higher ranked Type A, so he’d cost a second round pick.

    Since the other Type A (Holliday, Lackey) doesn’t seem to be happening, I’m ok with passing. He’s good, but he’s not that good.

    • Evil Empire

      Agreed. He’s worth debating if we’re talking about giving up the 75th pick or whatever our 2nd pick ends up being after the sandwich round. For #32 though? I would say definitely not.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      But that would hurt even more. Then the Yanks wouldn’t pick until the third round.

      • Evil Empire

        I think the difference is that Matt Holliday (if the powers that be deemed him affordable) is worth the #32 pick in the draft.

        So the argument now becomes is Soriano worth the 2nd round pick. I myself am not sure about that, but it would certainly make his acquisition more palatable.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Yeah, as much as I want the picks and don’t want to splurge this winter, if we got Holliday (provided that we didn’t drastically overpay or overcommit, which I’m still wary of) and Soriano, those are two very quality pieces who would fill decent needs on this team for the next few years.

          I wouldn’t complain too much (unless Holliday was making 21 AAV, of course.)

          • Evil Empire

            Yeah, only way I would want Holliday is if there is a minimal future FA ripple effect. So if we can afford Holliday and it doesn’t screw us out of a Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee in 2011, and/or one of the awesome potential 2012 FA pitchers, then it could make sense.

            We of course don’t have that ability to know whether it does or doesn’t though. But maybe we can read through the tea leaves in the winter meetings to get a better idea.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I still prefer the internal bullpen options. Marte and Robertson could be a very good 1-2 punch and will be cheaper and more flexible than signing a free agent.

    • Steve H

      +1. And I know Melancon’s star has fallen a little (unfairly, SSS) but if you had asked anyone in 2008 if Melancon would be a big part of the 2010 bullpen, they would have all said of course.

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        I think M-Squared could very easily do what D-Rob did in ’08 and the first half of ’09: low-leverage situations until he proves he can handle himself.

  • http://www.livingwithballs.com Living with Balls

    Seems like the draft system is a little flawed is Soriano is a type A free agent.

  • Evil Empire

    Would it possibly make sense to give IPK the Chamberlain/Hughes treatment and stick him into the bullpen for one year, or would that mess up his innings count or something?

    I’m not saying Kennedy is the 8th inning guy obviously, it would more be to get his feet wet and because he’s good enough to be a quality piece of the bullpen puzzle. You can try him out in a variety of roles ala Aceves and see which one (or ones) he does best in.

    What does RAB think?

    • Rose

      Personally, I think he may be Edwar Ramirez 2.0 in the bullpen…but possibly better. Only thing is, you usually want strike out hard throwers in the bullpen…and Kennedy doesn’t throw hard enough…

      • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

        IPK fastball > Edwar fastball. By a lot.

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          Also, IPK control >> Edwar control.

      • Evil Empire

        While yes, velocity is of course an important factor, I would argue that an even more important aspect is that you have control and command of your pitches. We always hear how important it is for relievers to not walk guys, and if IPK is right, he would fit in nicely.

        My greater concern is whether the short term help he might contribute would negatively affect his overall long term value as a starting pitcher.

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      I think IPK could fill the role that Aceves was in last year. He’s going to need to build his arm back up after a long absence last season and it’s pretty clear that he’s beyond the AAA level at this point. If he performs well in ST, bring him aboard the ML roster.

      If he does, the bullpen will likely have three pitchers–Aceves, Gaudin, and Kennedy–who can go multiple innings if need be and that’s very valuable, IMO.

      • Evil Empire

        Yup, that’s exactly what I’m thinking Matt. Fuck LaRussa. I want multi-inning relievers that I can use in a variety of situations. Then we can easily save the K-Rob/Marte bullets for the higher leverage situations.

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          Yep. If only one of them was left-handed, though.

          • Evil Empire

            Let’s re-sign Billy Traber!!!!

            Naw but seriously, if we have both Coke and Marte (or Mikey D if he works out), we can get by without a multi-inning lefty. Plus Girardi looooooooooooooves his fucking matchups, I couldn’t ever see him letting a lefty get more than 3 outs if we had Ace/IPK/Gaudin all in the ‘pen.

  • Peter

    Eh, I think I’d do it if I were Cashman. I mean, he’s not that much more of a health risk than any typical late-innings power reliever. He’s had elbow troubles in the past, but seeing as his elbow gave him no trouble in 2009, and seeing as he pitched exceptionally well in 2009, I think the potential move has less risk and more upside than you’re giving it credit for.

    I’d like to expound on the scouting report. When Soriano’s in mid-season form, his fastball sits 95-97, touching 98. He also throws a sharply breaking slutter with exceptional depth. At times, they’re both 70’s. Early and late last year, he sat 92-94 touching 96 (he was even slower at the season’s onset, ~90-91 a times), but before his injury in 2008 and in the middle of last year, his fastball velocity was as good as ever.

    As for the injury concerns, yeah, they’re there. There’s inherent risk with any reliever, even more-so for power relievers (full disclosure: I have no empirical evidence to suggest that’s true, but it’s intuitive and baseball people seem to think it’s true). His injury history for his entire professional career:

    Aug 19, 2009: Missed 2 games (right shoulder injury).
    Aug 17, 2009: Right shoulder injury, day-to-day.
    Sep 2, 2008: Transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL (right elbow inflammation).
    Aug 3, 2008: Right elbow inflammation, 15-day DL.
    Jul 21, 2008: Missed 37 games (right elbow injury).
    Jun 14, 2008: Right elbow injury, 15-day DL (retroactive to June 6).
    Jun 13, 2008: Right elbow injury, day-to-day.
    May 28, 2008: Missed 46 games (elbow injury).
    Apr 9, 2008: Elbow injury, 15-day DL.
    Oct 2, 2006: Missed the last 30 games of the regular season (concussion).
    Aug 30, 2006: Concussion, day-to-day.
    Aug 4, 2006: Missed 12 games (right shoulder injury).
    Jul 29, 2006: Right shoulder injury, 15-day DL (retroactive to July 20).
    Jul 4, 2006: Missed 5 games (right shoulder injury).
    Jul 3, 2006: Right shoulder injury, day-to-day.
    Sep 5, 2005: Missed 136 games (tommy John surgery).
    Apr 1, 2005: Tommy John surgery, 60-day DL.
    Oct 4, 2004: Missed 131 games to the end of the regular season (right elbow injury).
    May 11, 2004: Right elbow injury, 15-day DL (retroactive to May 10th).
    Aug 2, 2002: Missed 26 games (strained right shoulder) and optioned to San Antonio (AA).
    Jul 10, 2002: Strained right shoulder, 15-day DL.

    It doesn’t look good on the surface, but really, he was healthy for all of 2007, he had one perpetually misdiagnosed injury in 2008 (which shouldn’t be confused with a nagging injury as the 3 separate DL stints would indicate), and was healthy for all but 2 games in 2009. Obviously the Yankees FO and their medical staff knows a lot more than you or I do, and I trust they’ll make a correct assessment of his health. But I think he’s less of a health concern than most people would be led to believe.

    Rafael Soriano struck out 102 batters in 2009. You know how many other relievers struck out 100 batters in 2009? 2. Jonathan Broxton and Michael Wuertz. Rafael Soriano was a 2-win reliever in 2009. There were 10 total 2-win relievers:

    NAME – Wins Above Replacement
    Jonathan Broxton – 3.2
    Matt Thornton – 2.5
    Michael Wuertz – 2.4
    Brian Wilson – 2.4
    Andrew Bailey – 2.4
    Phil Hughes – 2.2
    Rafael Soriano – 2.0
    Mariano Rivera – 2.0
    C.J. Wilson – 2.0
    Heath Bell – 2.0

    Keith Law thinks Soriano should look for “K-Rod Money” (not that he’ll get it, just that he should ask for it). If that’s the price, Cashman should certainly stay away, but if the draft pick demand drives his value down and he could be had for something like “Kerry Wood Money”, or even less, I think it’s worth consideration. He’s by far the best reliever available and if you’re concerned with improving your late-innings bullpen group at all costs, he’s the first piece to consider.

    • Evil Empire

      Nicely thought out and constructed post but …

      “He’s by far the best reliever available and if you’re concerned with improving your late-innings bullpen group at all costs, he’s the first piece to consider.”

      I don’t think anyone is truly concerned with improving the late-inning bullpen group at all costs. Not when the cost is the #32 overall pick.

      Now if we sign another Type A who is actually, y’know, worthy of that #32 pick, than we can have a very legitimate debate about whether Soriano is worth the 2nd rounder (which is actually going to be like #75 or higher in the draft order). In a vacuum I am not opposed whatsoever to signing the guy.