Draft pick not the only issue with Rafael Soriano

Mailbag: Posada a DH too soon?
Mailbag: Oakland Relievers
(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Regardless of the Yankees’ stated disinterest, Rafael Soriano remains one of the most discussed players among Yankees fans and media. Without a viable starter on the free agent market or clearly available via trade, the Yankees have little recourse. They can, however, add a shutdown setup man and heir apparent to Mariano Rivera with Soriano. But as we’ve noted throughout the winter, there are factors that make acquiring Soriano a shaky proposition.

Today at New York Baseball Digest, Mike Silva tackles one of those issues: draft pick compensation. The Yankees would lose the 31st pick in the draft if they signed Soriano, and in a deep draft like this such a loss can be costly. Mike and I have butte heads before, but I think he lays out a solid argument here.

Back in March of ’10, Moshe Mandel of the Yankee U recapped a John Sickels conversation with Yankees VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman. In that column, Newman pointed out how they have relied on the international market, as well as risking lower draft picks on players that are signability issues, because the lower first round picks don’t have the highest ceilings. Knowing that, I don’t think the lack of a first round pick eliminates the Yankees from having a productive draft in 2011.

The Yankees will still have a top-50 pick, thanks to Javy Vazquez declining arbitration, so they could still get a decent front-end pick and then use their financial might in the later rounds. If the Yankees can get a lights-out setup guy and a potential future closer, might that be worth sacrificing one pick — a pick that Newman indicates that the Yankees don’t value as greatly as other teams?

My problem with signing Soriano, though, doesn’t so much center on the draft pick issue. When signing a premium free agent, the first round pick is a known tax. It might sway my opinion when it’s a mid-level player, but Soriano is clearly an elite relief pitcher who has succeeded while closing games for the AL East champs. That certainly has value to the Yankees. But the Yankees aren’t paying for the Soriano who terrorized opponents in 2010. They’d be paying for the Soriano from 2011 through 2014. That changes the equation.

Since the start of the 2006-2007 off-season, 10 fairly high-profile relievers have signed contracts of three years or more. The list of success stories is pretty thin.

Justin Speier: After superb 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Blue Jays, Speier got four years from the Angels in November of 2006. He had a quality first year, a 2.88 ERA, but after that he completely fell apart: 5.03 ERA in 2008 and 5.18 in 2009. He didn’t even play the final year of his contract.

Danys Baez: Despite a horrible 2006 season, Baez still managed a three-year contract from the Orioles for 2007 through 2009. Unsurprisingly, he was horrible in 2007. Then he needed surgery and missed 2008 before a decent, but still not very good, come back in 2009.

Chad Bradford: He wasn’t a closer, but he was still a useful reliever for many, many years. In 2005 he had a 3.86 ERA, and in 2006, with the Mets, he dropped that to 2.90. That led to a three-year contract. While he was decent in the first year and good in the second, he was pretty terrible in 2009.

Scott Schoeneweis: I’m not sure how Schoeneweis got three years, but he was terrible enough that I’m comfortable with ignoring him here.

Mariano Rivera: Needs no explanation.

Francisco Cordero: He turned a lights out 2007 into a four-year contract with the Reds. He’s been decent, and in 2009 he was excellent, but he hasn’t exactly been great enough to justify the contract. He very well might be the best comparable for Soriano.

David Riske: At least Speier had one good year in Anaheim. Riske was flat horrible his entire time with the Brewers.

Damaso Marte: We’re all too familiar with this one.

Francisco Rodriguez: He’s actually been quite good, off-field issues aside. Maybe he could act as a comparable for Soriano as well, but he definitely had more of a track record when he hit free agency.

Brandon Lyon: He had a good first year in Houston, though we need a bit more data before we can consider it a success.

The point, made concretely, is that even previously good relievers can collapse at any time. Soriano could certainly help the Yankees if he progresses in the same way as Francisco Cordero, but at that point is he worth the salary and the draft pick? This is where I’d say I lean towards the leave him alone camp. The signing would be risky enough without losing the draft pick. Adding in that factor has me opposing a Soriano acquisition.

Silva’s counterpoint: why not a one-year deal? That would certainly reduce risk. But if Soriano gets hurt, or has terrible luck, as we’ve seen with a number of relievers previously, the loss of the draft pick hurts that much. I’m not saying that’s probable, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. I’d actually feel a bit better about losing the draft pick over a multiyear deal than a one-year deal, since the Yanks can still get some value out of Soriano in later years of the contract if he flops in the first.

Who’s going to give Soriano multiple years? I’m not sure. But Boras has his way of working magic. After all, he got a team with an incumbent third baseman to sign a third baseman to a six-year, $96 million deal. I don’t think Soriano’s settling for a one-year deal this winter. He’ll get his multi-year deal. I’d just rather that not come from the Yankees.

Mailbag: Posada a DH too soon?
Mailbag: Oakland Relievers
  • SamVa

    Honestly, he’s a reliever.. yes I see the point about him replacing Rivera.. but we haven’t crossed that bridge yet.. In my opinion a reliever isn’t something that you should ever have to spend a first round draft pick on, no matter how lights out he is. Most relievers are people who can’t cut it as starters.. There are plenty of those in the minors and available through trades that don’t require much by way of prospects..
    We already have a pretty solid pen that includes the likes of Joba, Robertson, Feliciano, Rivera (obviously), Logan, and whoever ends up filling the back of it.
    The free agent class of 2011 is pretty solid in terms of late innings relievers. Mo hasn’t done anything, but be Mo. I think it would be an entirely different scenario if he had started to break down significantly in 2010. Then I could see the argument.. but Soriano is way too expensive as an 8th inning guy.
    Would it be nice to have Soriano?
    Do we need Soriano?
    Absolutely not.
    Is he worth the pick?
    In my opinion, not in the least.

    • Nefta

      How about this when Mariano is not available to close Soriano could take that place that day…

  • Chops

    Honestly, when I look at it from an economic perspective, I just don’t think the marginal benefit is greater than the marginal cost of signing Soriano over a lesser reliever.

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

    I’d rather go with the multi-year deal and take the chance. If you sign him to a 1 year deal, he’s no longer a potential future closer and you just gave up a pick in a loaded draft for 50-75 innings (and less if injured). The Yankees can eat the money and years if necessary. Soriano is a lot better than most of the guys on that list, with better stuff too (though still an injury risk). I still can’t believe he didn’t get a better chance at remaning a starter back in the day. His long term success and stuff make him a better bet at remaining successful over 3 years.

  • Russell NY

    Is this a realistic scenario:

    Yankees pick up Soriano.
    Yankees have catching surplus in Montero, Martin, Cervelli, and talk about Posada part time.
    Yankees trade Montero, Joba for reliable pitcher.

    I approve this message!

    • Chops

      Trade Montero for a reliever? ugh no thank you.

      • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

        To be fair to Russell, he said a reliable pitcher, not necessarily reliever.

        Either way, it absolutely depends on who that pitcher is before you consider doing something like that. Plus, it is a huge risk to assume you will be able to pull off a trade after you make the Soriano deal.

        Long story short, no thanks.

        • Chops

          oops, I misread his post. Anyway, my response still stands.

    • Accent Shallow

      Who is out there and available? I’m only giving up a bat like Montero for the sort of pitcher who is not currently on the market (i.e. King Felix, Lincecum).

  • Ed

    But Boras has his way of working magic. After all, he got a team with an incumbent third baseman to sign a third baseman to a six-year, $96 million deal.

    Just to further stress the craziness of that deal…

    He got a team with a 3B making $16M/year for the next 3 years to pay another 3B $16M/year for the next 5-6 years.

    The Rangers now have a $16M/year utility infielder for the next 3 years. That’s got to hurt going forward.

    • Mister Delaware

      Sure, but you’re ignoring that the Rangers now get to pay their 2011 DH more, for longer, for less production!

      • Chops

        Yeah, but when you look at the Net Gain, some A’s executive said the difference between a Beltre/Young lineup and a Young/Vlad lineup is a wash offensively. It’s still a huge improvement defensively.

    • Thomas

      The Rangers have to pay Young no matter what, whether he plays 3B, Util, or DH. He is the very definition of a sunk cost. The Rangers have realized this and think they are going to get better production out of Beltre and Young as a 3B/DH combo than they would if they either:
      (a) played Young at 3B and pocketed the $16M or
      (b) played Young at 3B and spent the $16M on another piece regardless of the position.

      The Young extension was stupid, I personally don’t think Beltre should get a $96M deal, and it is arguable that the $96M could have been better spent. However, the Rangers have realized they are going to be better by letting weak players be sunk cost than playing them just because they have a high salary and that is not stupid.

      • Mister Delaware

        No, Young is an upside-down investment, not a sunk cost. Fangraphs still had him at 2.4 wins last year; the debate isn’t if Beltre is better or even if Beltre/Young is better than Young/Guerrero, its if this was the most efficient use of resources. And that analysis has to include bets on 34-36 year old Adrian Beltre, not just the 2011 version. Looking at 3B in a fishbowl, its possible they just took their overpay through 2013 and guaranteed an overpay through 2016.

      • Ed

        I get your point, and I’d probably go along with it if it was a one year deal. I just can’t agree with it for the next 3 years.

        I just don’t think Michael Young has declined anywhere near enough for a move like that to make sense. He’s been worth about 2.5 WAR/year since he moved to 3B. While that’s not $16m/year production, it’s not at all bad.

        It just feels like the kind of move that will have a horrible opportunity cost in the following offseasons.

  • Frank

    For three years,I’d take a chance with Soriano. He would essentially shorten the game for a starter to 6 innings and in some cases, 5 innings. Given the current state of the Yanks rotation, they are going to need a very strong BP.I’m not at all concerned about the draft pick. The draft is a crap shoot anyway- we’ve all read about “can’t miss” prospects who never pan out. The Yanks could just as likely find a gem in the later rounds of the draft.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      He would essentially shorten the game for a starter to 6 innings and in some cases, 5 innings.

      Are the 40-year-old Mariano and the injury-prone Soriano gonna pitch 2 innings every time the Yankees have a lead?

      • Frank

        Given the current state of the Yankees starting rotation, it’s inevitable the BP as a whole will be overworked. Soriano would help to ease the burden. But to answer your question, he and Mo would likely have to be used more often.

  • Mister Delaware

    “I’d actually feel a bit better about losing the draft pick over a multiyear deal than a one-year deal, since the Yanks can still get some value out of Soriano in later years of the contract if he flops in the first.”

    Not sure that makes sense unless there’s a huge premium on a one year deal. If its either one year at $10MM or 3 years at $27MM, the former is the way to go.

    Option 1: He flops, but you can still decide to turn his one year deal into a two year deal by offering arbitration under the assumption he accepts.

    Option 2: He flops, you don’t offer arbitration, its a one year mess at the cost of the #31 pick. (Worst case on the 1 year deal.)

    Option 3: He’s great, we offer arbitration, he accepts, it becomes a 2 year deal and costs a bit more AAV.

    Option 4: He’s great, we offer arbitration, he declines and we get a 1st or 2nd round pick plus a comp. The $ cost of 2011 plus the 2011 1st round pick turns into 2011 pen production + a 2012 1st/2nd + a 2012 1a.

    Most of your prior 3 year reliever examples above, plus his injury history, sort of prove why a 3 year deal has too much risk to be worth it.

  • http://twitter.com/j_yankees J_Yankees

    The draft issue, to me, is of little concern. If the Yankees lose their first rounder they still have the comp pick to fall back on. That gives me enough of security that the Yankees will find something worth while at the top of their draft. And the difference between the 31st pick and the 48th pick shouldn’t be what makes you cry wolf on Soriano.

  • Avi

    The Rays will have 11 picks in this year’s draft between #24 and #64 (source: Mike’s article on MLBtraderumors http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/tampa_bay_devil_rays/page/2/). There’s no way they can afford to pick the best available player with those picks as it would likely cost them $20MM or more to sign them all. For this reason I think Tampa would much rather have say $1MM than the two picks they’d receive for loosing Soriano. So how about do a sign and trade with Tampa where the Rays sign Soriano and trade him to the Yanks for “cash considerations”?

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

      No chance.

    • Chops

      If I’m going to make a deal with Tampa, I’d rather bring Garza back to NY than Soriano.

  • Monteroisdinero

    For an impatient fan base that is used to winning every year, why the big hesitation on Soriano? Mariano at 41 will not be here forever and Soriano is about 10 years younger. Mariano will increasingly be unable to pitch back to back or whatever other pitch count limitations occur during a long season. He can easily get injured at his age as well. Soriano is battle-tested. He would get a chance to close games this year and many more once Mo retires. Sign him-if for no other reason than preventing him from closing games against us!

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      No reliever will ever be worth a 3 year deal or more unless his name is Mo. K-Rod may have a case but that’s it.

      And he’s a flyball guy. That won’t fly in YS3. Pun not originally intended….

  • The Real JobaWockeeZ

    An extreme fly ball pitcher in YS3 scares me. Pass. Please.

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

      Thank you.

    • I Voted 4 Kodos

      4.8% HR/FB last year. That’s gotta go up, along with his ERA, in New Yankee Stadium.

  • Paul

    Not worth it.

    However, Brian Fuentes is worth it depending on how much he wants and how long, but if it’s 3/$6 or even 3/$8 it’s worth it because his splits over the last three years show that he is not a LOOGY, but he has good numbers against righties and lefties and he was not offered arbitration by Minnesota so he won’t cost a draft pick. If they got Lee or Petite then I would say the latter, but the current starting rotation has to lead you to believe the bullpen will need to eat up more innings this year, so if you have Mo, Robertson, Joba, Fuentes, Logan, Feliciano, then you have the first half of the season covered and you still have flexibility to make moves in July both budget-wise and if you need to move a guy….Logan? Joba?

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

      Fuentes scares the crap out of me. I’m still trying to get my heart rate down after watching Kerry Wood for two months.

    • Mike HC

      I want no part of Fuentes, especially now that we signed Feliciano. Fuentes would just be redundant. Soriano might be an overpay and risky, but at least the upside of the signing is pretty damn high. 70 innings or so with a 2.5 era and 1.0 whip is very valuable.

      • bottom line

        Actually, a 0.8 WHIP for Soriano last year.

        As great as the risk might be with Soriano, it’s trivial compared to the risk of a meltdown by the current bullpen. Neither Joba nor D-Rob has shown sustained ability to lock down eighth. And lucky as we’ve been with Mariano, if he goes down pen is total disaster zone.

        As to so-called risk with relievers, I would say a four year deal with Soriano risks far leass than a 7 year deal with Lee. Even if Lee was good for four years (very questionable IMO) that would leave about $66 mill at 3/22. That’s probably far more than Yanks would shell out for Soriano. As to which will have more good years– very much open to question. The sad truth is Soriano may be the only avenue currently available to make this team a true contender without sacrficing Montero or the B’s.

  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

    re: K-Rod being excellent. In 2009 he had a 3.71 ERA (high for a closer) and a 4.01 FIP and 4.32 xFIP. He had a 1.309 WHIP. He walked five per nine (!!!!!) without Marmol-like strikeout numbers, which is way too many. He blew seven saves (if I counted right), which is a lot.

    Last year he was much better in terms of peripherals, but yeah. I bet at least 75% of Met fans would want to dump that contract.

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

      17.5 million dollar vesting option for 2012. Vests with 55 games finished this year. Seventeen point five million.

      • Avi

        55 games is a lot though. Does games finished mean he throws the last pitch in the game for the Mets?

        • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

          Yes, that’s what it means. It’s a good amount, but it’s not that much for a regular closer who stays healthy. 12 guys did it in 2010. Marmol finished 70 games. 11 did it in 2009, 10 in 2008, and 14 in 2007. Heck, K-rod himself did it every year from 2005-2009, and even last year he managed to finish 46 games despite throwing his last pitch on August 14th.

          If he is allowed to close regularly, he will get there.

          • Avi

            I see. Good stuff.

          • Ed

            You’re talking about 17% more than Mo makes. The next highest paid closer is around the $12m range, while most big money closer deals are closer to $10m.

            If that option vests, it’s going to be a *huge* overpay.

        • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

          KRod Games Finished: 46, 66, 69, 56, 58, 58

          If he doesn’t fight his father-in-law he’d be over 55 again.
          And I’m sure the union already has a grievance ready to go if the Mets suddenly stop using Krod in Aug/Sept

          • MikeD

            Even the two prior years (meaning prior the the “incident!”), he was at 56 and 58, so they could very easily manage him down a few appearances. Knowing how the Mets are looking to reduce salary, I think there’s little change he breaks 55. They’ll take their risk with the grievance. It’ll be tough to prove, unless they do something crazy, like ramp up his appearances so he has 35 by mid-season, and then reduce him to only 19 the second half.

            • MikeD


              If he breaks 55, there will be lots and lots of change!

            • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

              I don’t know – I don’t know how many examples there are of grievances working for vesting options, but you know his agent is going to be watching closely the entire year.

              The Mets look like a .500 team, so there’s going to be a lot of close games, if they suddenly don’t use him for a week, you think his agent is going to calling? If he’s suddenly starts random 8th innings? Or if he cleans up a mess in the 8th, then doesn’t go back out for the 9th?

              • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

                And while he only got 56-58 before 3 years of 60+, he was on the DL for 17 days one year, the Angels had a 9 game lead on September 1 one year, and they finished with a 7 game lead the other year.

                He got 66 GF on the Mets in 2009, when they won 70 games.

                • MikeD

                  I agree on one level, in that I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the save opportunities for a team that wins 95 games and a team that wins 75. Sure, there’s the potential for 20 more saves, but since the main reliever does need to be rested, and a better team is probably more likely to have more blow-out wins than a lesser team, I can easily see a reliever on the Mets getting in the same range of save opportunites as a reliever on the Phillies.

                  Look no further than Mariano’s save totals and Soria’s last year. And moving beyond saves, a team’s top closer, as long as he’s effective, is probably going to appear in 65-70 games. How many saves he generates out of those appearances is another story.

                  So, yes, is K-Rod is healthy, they will have to manage him down so that he doesn’t hit 55. It’s tricky, but I don’t see a scenario where the Mets will pay him $17.5 million in 2012. It goes against everything they appear to be doing right now.

                  • MikeD

                    And, btw, there are other ways around paying the high price. If he’s pitching well, they could very well try to maximize his value by having him pitch heavily heading into the trade deadline, and then they trade him to a team that needs a closer. They could agree to include $3-5 million to offset his 2012 salary, so that he’s in the more reasonable $12-13 million cost range, which would be a good deal for a team, especially if they know they only have to keep him for one season. It limits their exposure. It frees up cash for what Alderson wants to do with the Mets. What I am positive about is Alderson has no intention of spending $17.5 million for a closer in 2012 and they will be working, one way of the other, to make sure it doesn’t ahppen.

  • Mike HC

    I think he is worth the pick and a multi year deal up to three years. I would not go four. He might get injured, or he might drop off, but that is a risk I would personally be willing to take. I can easily see the other side of the argument though and wouldn’t come close to get into a bidding war for him. This stuff is all relative, but 3 years for 30-35 million would be ok with me. Obviously a slight overpay, but that is going to be necessary. If we can possibly get him for less, even better.

  • Avi

    I don’t like the argument that you shouldn’t sign a reliever to a multi year deal cuz “they never work”. There have been just as many poor contracts given to starting pitchers (Hampton, Burnett, Zito, Lackey, Pavano, Zambrano, Johan etc) yet we all wanted the Yanks to give Cliff Lee $150M or so. It doesn’t change the fact that the CC signing was a GREAT one. You have to be very careful who you give it to and minimize your risk! If you sign guys who have multiple prime years ahead of them, with a long record of success and a clean injury history you’ll be successful at least most of the time (not saying Soriano fits that description).

    • Mister Delaware

      The problem is relievers, as a whole, are proven to be a very volatile group. Year to year, starters are much more consistent.

      (Which, of course, is partially a function of innings, but the uneven contributions have to be factored in.)

      • bottom line

        Yes, but Soriano has been very consistentat a high level, never producing an ERA over around 3.20 in six years, and that just once.

        • Mister Delaware

          Sure, but he’s also failed to produce more than 15 innings in 3 of his 7 years as a reliever.

    • OldYanksFan

      Yeah, that’s true, except Relievers are failed (poorer) starters. So the odds of a poorer pitcher being good over a long contract are less then a good player being good over a long contract.

      • Mike HC

        To add to that, if a starter falls off and/or can’t stay healthy starting, he could still be put in the pen and have some value there. If a reliever falls off and/or can’t stay healthy in the pen, there is no where else to go except on the couch next to me and you while cashing those million dollar pay checks.

        • Mister Delaware

          Somebody’s bragging about their big couch.

  • Paul

    Soriano’s injury history scares me more than Feuntes’ numbers, and Feuntes stats/splits over the last three years are actually comparable to Soriano’s (or even better considering Soriano’s health). His stats show him to be a 50-65 inning guy who does well against both lefties and righties and you would ask him to do it in the 7th or 8th inning (not closing), under a manager who is top-notch at handling his bullpen and placing his bullpen guys in match-ups they should thrive.

    None of these relief guys are ideal, if Lee or Pettitte were back we wouldn’t even be discussing them, but again, you can’t ignore the fact that the bullpen is going to have to soak up many innings with this starting rotation. Where is Aaron Small, give him a call? :)

    • Mike HC

      The Yanks are hoping they have a couple of “Aaron Smalls” in AAA.

      • Paul

        I hope so, too.

        But already spending almost $200 million it probably makes sense to grab a $6-$8 million insurance policy for the bullpen, no?

        • Mike HC

          I don’t think paying Soriano 10-12 million a year over paying a guy 6-8 million is that much of an overpay or over extension of our resources, especially considering how dominant Soriano has been the past couple of years. As I wrote above though, I can easily see the the other side of the argument, so I wouldn’t put up too much of a fight no matter what the Yanks decide to do.

          • Paul

            Agreed….so long as they do recognize that it makes sense to sign an extra guy to competently eat up those innings that are most likely to materialize….

            • Mike HC

              I am in complete agreement there. We need more pitching whether it is a starter or in the pen.

  • Russell NY

    “Francisco Rodriguez: He’s actually been quite good, off-field issues aside. Maybe he could act as a comparable for Soriano as well, but he definitely had more of a track record when he hit free agency.”

    I’m going to disagree. I think he has more of a “track record” now :)

  • Danny T

    how about signing him to a minor league deal with bonuses if he makes the team? haha. i don’t know how/if its even possible. also, what about trading for k-rod? i know he is not the best but its better then nothing. and if he did come along, there is no way his option would vest unless mo was injured for half the season.

  • OldYanksFan

    I heard this dude wants Mariano-money. That, of course, is nuts.
    I don’t know how we can talk about this, without knowing what the cost of a contract is likely to be.
    3/$27m would be risky, but might be manageable.
    4/$40m+ would be insane.

    And by the way….
    As someone stated, I’m not sure the Yankees can continue eating bad contracts. We still have money to spend, but not money to burn. Over the next few years, our core guys (ARod, Jeter, Teix, CC) continue to get older. We will need to add some impact players down the road, probably in the OF.

    These contracts on the books represent past ‘risks’. Jeter’s contract is even more risky. I think we need to start being a bit more cautious. And really, aren’t we gonna get some at least decent RP from the farm? What might the difference be betwen a Soriano and a killer B… aside from $10m?

    • Mike HC

      I’m hoping the Yanks are trying to keep the salary stagnant in preparation for the new collective bargaining agreement next year. Then after the financial landscape is more set in stone, the Yanks brass will be more willing up the team salary and take on more risk. I’m hoping. But it is tough to complain when we still have the highest payroll, although I bet the yanks make ridiculously more money than every other team.

    • MikeD

      Considering Boras is his agent, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly what they’re seeking. Any team paying that is making a mistake. Mo is a legend, and has been as durable as any reliever, well, ever. How many have performed at his high level for so long? Soriano is very injury prone.

      I wonder if looking for that Mo-like contract is the reason he’s still sitting on the market. I’ll never underestimate Boras, but he does ocassionally misread the market, like he did in 2009/10 for Damon.