When the Yankees had a lead to start the eighth inning last season, they went 80-7. Two of those leads were blown in the ninth, so the Yankees lost five leads during the eighth inning. They were also 5-4 when tied after seven. Chances are that Rafael Soriano won’t turn all of those instances into wins, but he’ll certainly help. That’s one of the few consolations I can take in the three-year, $35 million deal he has reportedly signed with the Yankees.
In terms of the 2011 team, there are no complaints. The Yankees had plenty of money to spend, and they certainly upgraded the back end of the bullpen. This will lead to a greater enjoyment of the 2011 season. The Yanks might win a few games that they otherwise would have lost, and we will all be a little less irritable the next mornings. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what this means for the 2012 and 2013 teams.
Maybe the Yankees really do have a limitless budget. Maybe they can raise it to $220 million if the right players become available. Brian Cashman has always asserted that he operates under a strict budget, but Brian Cashman also said that he wasn’t going to surrender his first round pick in this year’s draft. If Soriano’s contract doesn’t prevent the Yankees from making a move in the next three years, it’s hard not to like it. But if they can’t or don’t make a move because of payroll concerns, then the contract becomes a problem.
The Yankees might have improved the bullpen, but preposterous is the idea that a great endgame somehow covers up a weak opening. Behind CC Sabathia the Yankees have a second-year starter who was average in his first, a pitcher with good stuff who was pretty terrible last season, a 24-year-old with a back of the rotation ceiling, and 30-year-old who has just 416.1 career innings and a 5.27 ERA. They need some more help there, because in order for the endgame to even play a part they need a strong opening.
Hold onto your butts…
The easiest and quickest way to make the rotation a little bit better is, as thousands have already suggested, to use Joba there. Even 2009 Joba is better than Mitre, and that counts the slop he was throwing when they pulled the short start nonsense. In the bullpen his role has greatly diminished. In the rotation he can at least upgrade the team, even if it’s in a small way. There is absolutely nothing to lose. His stuff might play up better in the bullpen, as Cashman said earlier, but again, I don’t think we should be in the business of believing anything Cashman says.
Losing the draft pick hurts a bit, but it’s far from the primary aspect of this deal. The Yanks still do have a first round selection, but their 31st pick is gone. If they resolve to pick up some risky players in the later rounds they can somewhat make up for that pick, and there’s always the international market. I still don’t like the idea of surrendering a draft pick for a reliever, but it’s not worth getting too worked up over. The Yankees might even be able to recoup that pick if Soriano has a lights out season. He has an opt out after each season, so he could leave two years and $23.5 million on the table if he thought he could find something better. Considering his experience this year I don’t think that will be the case.
In Soriano the Yankees get an excellent reliever who can help lockdown the endgame. It cost them a lot of money relative to his potential contribution, and it cost them the chance to draft a young player. If he stays healthy and locks down the eighth inning before sliding into the closer’s role for the final year of the deal, it might end up working out. But knowing what we know now, about relievers in general and Soriano specifically, I’m not too excited over this deal. Though I realize I’ll sleep that much easier during the 2011 season.