Mailbag: Getting Soriano and keeping the draft pick

Mailbag: Andruw Jones
Food For Thought: Nick Swisher
(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

theyankeewarrior writes:

Here’s an unlikley scenario that I pulled out of mowhere over Christmas break: The Washington Nationals already have three of the first 34 picks. They don’t have a second rounder. What if the Yankees worked out a sign-and-trade with them for Soriano? The Nationals would only be surrendering the 86th pick for him, and the Yankees could easily make up for that (and some) with a guy like Phelps/Mitchell/Warren, right? This way, the Yankees get to keep their 31st pick in a stacked draft, secure one of the best relievers in MLB for about 4 prime years, and trade from a position of depth (SP/C?). Seems like a decent fit for both sides. What do you think?

This idea reminds me of Juan Cruz’s situation two winters ago. He had pitched very well for the Diamondbacks in 2008 and was labeled a Type A free agent. But, because of his inconsistent track record teams weren’t willing to surrender their first unprotected pick. And so he languished on the free agent market well into February. At one point a sign and trade was discussed, though it was quite a bit different than what is suggested above.

The idea two years ago was that the Diamondbacks would re-sign Cruz and then trade him to another team. They wouldn’t get a draft pick in return, since they re-signed their own player. But they would receive a player, or players, from the team that eventually got Cruz. That package wouldn’t be equal in value to an unprotected pick, or else the the receiving team would have just signed him straight up. But it would provide Arizona something. That situation never developed, though, as Royals GM Dayton Moore bailed out everyone by signing Cruz to a two-year, $6 million contract.

With Soriano the situation is a bit different. He’s clearly a better pitcher than Cruz, and I’m sure that eventually a team will surrender its first unprotected pick in order to sign him. More importantly, in the above scenario the Rays would be getting absolutely screwed. They would lose their best reliever to a division rival and not even get their first unprotected pick. They’d instead get Washington’s first unprotected pick, which, again, will be somewhere around No. 90 once all the free agents sign. If Washington straight up signed Soriano there’s nothing the Rays could do. But if it’s a sign-and-trade I can see the complaint board at the Commissioner’s Office lighting up.

Let’s just pretend for a second that all involved parties approve this. Let’s say the Nats would rather have a AAA player than the 86th pick in the draft. Let’s say that they won’t use Austin Romine, the 90th pick in the 2007 draft, as a reference point. Let’s say that the Commissioner’s Office ignores the Rays legitimate complaints and allows the trade to move forward. Would the Yankees want to sign Soriano at that point?

While draft pick compensation acts as a tax, the removal of that tax does not necessarily make Soriano a better bet. He’s still a relief pitcher with an injury history:

There are downsides to signing Soriano, of course. First, he’s going to command a multi-year, big money contract. We know that relievers are volatile creatures, and while Soriano has been relatively consistent throughout his career, he’s still susceptible to random fluctuations. His health is also somewhat of a concern. After his Tommy John Surgery he missed time in 2008 with further elbow troubles.

There are upsides, of course, not least of which is Soriano’s ability to step in for Mo after the latter retires. But does that potential advantage outweigh the massive risk that is giving four years to a reliever with an injury history? I’m leaning no. The Yankees have plenty of money available this off-season, and I think they should use every penny in order to improve the 2011 team. But when they start adding money to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 payrolls is when I start to get a bit wary. They still have a lot of money committed to those years, and to add potentially dead money to those years will only make things worse.

Removing the draft pick compensation — or at least making it a bit more palatable a sacrifice — definitely makes Soriano a more attractive option for the 2011 bullpen. The Yanks have quite a few question marks with the starting staff, so adding another high quality reliever can help Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild balance everyone’s workload if the bullpen is needed more frequently than in years past. It’s the implications this has for future years that has me leaning no on the issue. I wouldn’t be upset if the Yankees did this, though it sounds like an impossible scenario. But it’s also not a move I would actively pursue.

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Mailbag: Andruw Jones
Food For Thought: Nick Swisher
  • Granderslam

    I would rather exercise a trade for someone like Leo Nunez than risk a draft pick or possible sign-and-trade situation with Soriano.

  • bottom line

    This is a very reasonable post, but I would take issue with the description of Soriano as “relatively consistent.” He’s been much better than that.

    Six straight years with ERAs ranging from 1.73 to just over 3 (with four, as I recall well below 3), four of last five years with 60 innings or more pitched, a truly remarkable WHIP last year of 0.8 (not to mention 47 saves). I share your concern with payroll in coming years, but I would think Soriano on his record promises at least two, and probably three, good years of next four. Simply seems like with the paucity of choices we have, he is the most likely major improvement, and as you say a potential heir to Marianao, as well. He makes the pen much better right now, provides back-up for the future and even might free up Joba for inclusion in a trade for a starter. Seems to me that’s a lot of value.

    • Eric Young

      Wetteland and Mo are what come immediately to my mind. And, outside ot the Joba in the rotation reference, I ust wast to say thanks for your post.

  • theyankeewarrior

    To me, this scenerio is more about the contract than the prospect. I assume that keeping that first-rounder and trading from a position of depth makes losing a AAA guy who mould probably never put on pinstripes not such a big deal.

    As Mike sais, the tough part is comitting big money and years to Soriano. But, if his market continues to be small, then the Yanks could potientally get him for less years and dollars than expected.

    Again, it’s a long shot, but something to ponder while it’s snowing.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      While I can see trading a player from a position of depth, if that player is worth more than the pick (and is obviously much closer to the majors) I’d rather either lose the pick or trade that player for something else.

      • theyankeewarrior

        Right. It has to be the right player. But the Yankees have a ton of depth that they will never use. They rarely utilize their starting pitching prospects for themselves unless they’re studs with high-upside like Hughes.

        The Nationals are a team that need to produce basically their whole team (including their 4th and 5th-type starters). We have plenty of them that will almost certainly be traded before they get to the Majors.

        It might as well be for a player as good as Soriano.

    • theyankeewarrior

      Correction:

      As *Joe *said

  • http://www.retire21.org # * # first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

    I understand the appeal of adding a stud to the bullpen, but I just don’t see Soriano + contract fitting into the Yankees’ plans.

  • http://twitter.com/kschmidt2 Kiersten

    Just say NO to four-year contracts for relievers.

    • http://www.retire21.org first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

      +1

    • OldYanksFan

      And just say “OMG FUCK NO” to four-year contracts for relievers for $10m/yr of more. Crazy… especially for a team like ours, that has so many potential BP arms on the farm.

      Can we start saving some money for our next SS?

  • Russ

    I’m pretty sure, unless they changed it, there is an MLB rule that you can’t trade someone who was signed to a major league deal as a free agent until after May 15th or something like that.

    The Cruz rumor worked because it was his old team signing him, this would be a different team signing him and thus not allowed.

    • spaceman

      You’re right, there is an mlb rule for this but is till june 15th

    • Aaron Guiel

      Yeah, you can’t trade a free agent you signed until May or June 15th.

    • Ed

      You can trade a recently signed free agent if he approves the deal. That’s why the Cruz idea worked, not because his old team signed him.

      I think these talks all assume the player is in on the idea.

  • Sal

    The Yankees have to get Soriano signed because the Red Sox lineup looks real scary right now and it would be great to have 2 dominant relievers in our bull pen. He is great insurance for Mariano if he gets hurt and needs to miss some games. I think there is a good chance that that they will sign him and I don’t buy it when Cashman says that he is not interested and he would cost too much. We need to have an 8th inning guy. Kerry Wood was such a luxury. Tom Gordon was great too back in the day (not counting the post season).

    • AJ

      Soriano would be great for the Yankees but at what price? He may still think a team is willing to give him Mariano Rivera money for multiple years. I think the sign and trade is an interesting idea, if MLB allows it. Otherwise, if his price comes down, the Yankees will be involved.

    • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

      Because a guy who might pitch 10 innings total against the Sox next year is worth it.

    • http://www.retire21.org first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

      He’ll probably command an AAV on par with what Mo is making. Paying the value of an asset on insurance is bad business.

  • AJ

    Forget Soriano, I would have liked Cashman to sign Saito.

    • mbonzo

      Thats gonna be hard when he’s already signed with the Brewers.

      • KofH

        Hence the past tense…

      • radnom


        would have

        • AJ

          Thank you KofH and radnom for actually reading my post.

          • mbonzo

            I read your post, I’m tired of people dwelling in the past with Cashman. Every thread has someone saying, I would have signed Webb/Lee/Crawford/Werth. Get over it, they signed with other teams.

  • steve (different one)

    is Adam Warren for the 31st pick in the draft even a good trade? i don’t think it is.

    you’re just starting over and you *might* end up with a prospect as good as Warren. sure, you might wind up with a better prospect, but he’ll also take 2 years longer to develop, so you have to discount that back.

    it’s not a bad idea in theory, but as others have pointed out, probably not happening.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      I agree, I think you’d end up giving up something more valuable than the 31st pick, even in a loaded draft.

  • Eric Young

    Everywhere I go, and this site is no exception, I read that RPs are “volatile creatures.”

    I’d like to see a discussion as to why this is the conventional wisdom and, more important, must it always be so or is there something to how the position is viewed and approached that causes it to be so? In other words, even if there is a history of “volatility,” must this state of affairs be permanent or can it be changed?

    • JAG

      Well it probably doesn’t help the sample size that many relievers are so because they got injured too much as starters (i.e. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood). Those guys are volatile b/c when they’re healthy they’re good but they’re not healthy that often, but that is as much about the guys themselves as about what position they play.

  • Johnny

    I don’t know, but the Yankees have to do something!