What Went Right: Rafael Soriano

What Went Wrong: Mariano Rivera
Ortiz close to returning to Red Sox on two-year deal

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

#untuck (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

A year ago, Rafael Soriano was the world’s most overqualified and overpaid seventh inning reliever. The right-hander battled injury and early-season ineffectiveness after signing a three-year, $35M pact with the Yankees that included a pair of team unfriendly opt-out clauses after years one and two. Twelve months later, he was their bullpen MVP and Mariano Rivera‘s ninth inning replacement.

Soriano, 32, opened this past season as Joe Girardi‘s seventh inning reliever again, and two weeks into the schedule he had twice as many walks (six) as strikeouts (three) in his first four appearances (four innings). He settled down and managed to curb the walks, and on the day of Rivera’s injury he owned a 2.25 ERA in eight appearances and innings. David Robertson initially stepped in as the closer, but a little more than a week later he went down with an oblique injury. The Yankees had lost their two best relievers in the span of eight days, bumping everyone up the totem pole two notches.

Luckily for the Yankees, Soriano was an accomplished closer who drew Cy Young votes for his effort with the Rays in 2010, the All-Star season that landed him the big contract in New York. He saved his first game on May 10th, his second on May 14th, and soon after the shutout appearances and dominant ninth innings piled up. Soriano pitched so well that he kept the closer’s gig even after Robertson came off the DL in early-June, and there wasn’t even a hint of controversy. He landed the job almost by default but kept it based on merit. He was that good.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

At one point down the stretch, Soriano appeared in eleven of 21 team games as they were fending off the Orioles. He did run into some homer problems late in the season (five homers in his last 16 innings), but nothing that would derailed him or the team. Faced with the daunting task of replacing Rivera in October, Soriano threw 4.1 shutout innings in three postseason appearances. Two of those three appearances were multi-inning outings against the Orioles in the ALDS that kept the game tied into extra innings.

All told, Soriano pitched to a 2.26 ERA with 57 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 57 appearances and 55.2 innings after taking over as the team’s closer. He saved 42 games in 46 chances and led baseball with five saves of more than one inning. Four of those five saves came down the stretch in August and September, when the Yankees started to slide and Baltimore crept closer in the standings. Soriano joined Rivera, John Wetteland, and Dave Righetti as the only members of the 40-save club in franchise history, and only Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson nailed down more games this season. They had a 30-something game head start, remember.

There is no replacing Mariano Rivera — by bWAR, Soriano had Mo’s 13th best season in 2013 — but Soriano made life after the injury as painless as possible. This was a situation that could have easily (and nearly did when Robertson blew a save a few days after Rivera’s injury) spiraled out of control and become a disaster, though that didn’t happen. The Silent One stepped in, stepped up, and served as the backbone of the team’s bullpen after the greatest relief pitcher in human history went down with a fluke injury a month in the season.

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What Went Wrong: Mariano Rivera
Ortiz close to returning to Red Sox on two-year deal
  • Anthony

    Gonna miss him if he leaves. Thanks for a great season Sori.

  • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

    He saved this team, and this fanbase, from a hell of a lot of heartbreak this year. Feel crappy about 2012? Imagine how crappier you’d be feeling without this man stepping in for Mo like he did.

    Personally, I’ve never warmed to him. Perhaps it’s the contract. Perhaps it’s his demeanor on the mound and in post-game interviews. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what he did this season.

    Whatever life leads you, Sori, best of luck, unless it’s in Boston, in which case you stick an untucked jersey up your ass.

    • vin

      Loone Bogan would’ve been the guy to nail down saves back in May. Or maybe my man Cory Wade.

    • Chris in Maine

      This, especially the last sentence

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      I feel bad for Sori because I feel like a lot of fans have the same outlook as you do R-Tils, somewhat appreciative but never approving. I for one went from full on dislike of the guy to liking him just as much as anybody on the team. A lot of it is for the same reason many of the fans disliked him. Apart from skipping out on the media after a blown save in either August or Sept, he was businessman like on the mound and in the locker room. He quietly and effectively shut down games and that was it.

      • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

        My relationship with Sori needed some heavy repairing after he dug himself into a quite a hole between us with his pre-injury 2011 performance. I’d say there’s still some mutual work to do, but we are in a better place than before. He just may walk out before our work together is done.

    • vicki

      “what’s up, chickens?”

      come on. that was adorable.

  • 0 for infinity and beyond

    Just to out do the Yankees the Dodgers will sign him to 4 yr $15M per yr contract to be their 6th inning guyTM

  • CT Yankee

    As much as some of us didn’t like the signing or how much we were paying him, that man stepped up and bailed our ass out of alot of jams and headaches during this season the second Mariano went down.

    We gotta look back and be thankful he stayed around this season.

    Here’s to you, Mr. Soriano.

  • Eddard

    He got no credit for what he did. Everyone kept saying, he’ll fail in the postseason but he never got a save opportunity. You can pin the Detroit debacle on a lot of people- ARod, Girardi, Granderson, Swisher, Arod, Cano but you can’t pin it on Soriano. For this reason, he should be brought back on a new 3 year deal. Let’s face it, Mo’s last season is 2013. He’s not immortal. Soriano can pitch the 8th next season, David Robertson takes over the fireman role. Then Soriano can take over as closer in 2014.

    • jjyank

      When did someone try to pin anything on Soriano? He’s in the “What Went Right” category for Mo’s sake. And hellz to the no for a new three year deal.

      #EddardWorld

      • Eddard

        It’s like Brett Favre said the first time he retired, all good things must come to an end. Mo’s last year is next year. It probably would have been this year until he got hurt. Soriano on a 3 year deal gives us the best bullpen in baseball for 2013 and an elite closer for 2014 and 2015.

      • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

        Eddard: “Sori’s going to get the save!”

        Eddard’s pants: *in squeaky voice*, “No way, boss! He’s going to blow it! You’ll see!”

        This, of course, translates to “everyone.”

        • jjyank

          I like the direction the Eddard memes are going.

          • Darren

            The piling on of Eddard is ridiculous. Especially from commentors like jjyank and Robinson Tilapia who are obviously intelligent. It makes you seem like you’re the asshole jocks in high school.

            • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

              Lets not bead around the bush here. Eddard writes these boneheaded posts for no other reason than to be ridiculed or start a joke. He’s admitted to it multiple times.

            • jjyank

              Have you been following his posts? So much of it is just so ridiculous that is has to be done intentionally.

              • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

                It is, he admitted to it a few days after the season ended.

                • jjyank

                  I mean, we pretty much do the same thing to stuart, and nobody seems to have a problem with it.

                • Anthony

                  What?? I didn’t see that little revelation. After seeing stuart’s antics on here I thought he was just as serious.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Relax. We’re having fun here at the expense of someone who cannot possibly be taking themselves seriously.

              If not, I really don’t give a shit. If this is the persona you’re giving yourself on the net, you’re asking for it.

              I can’t even imagine what would have been thrown at him a couple of years ago on here.

        • Davud AKA Brien Taylor’s torn labrum

          Hey, that IS everyone that matters… uh, not to me, mind you, no sir, but to, uh, the world at large, figuratively speaking that is & all that.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      but you can’t pin it on Soriano. For this reason, he should be brought back on a new 3 year deal.

      You can’t pin the loss to Detroit on me either. I’ll take a new 3-year deal, please.

      • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

        15 million / 162 games = 92,529.59 a day. I’ll take a three-DAY deal.

        • jjyank

          “This call to the bullpen is brought to you by AT&T. Coming into the game now is the newly signed Robinson ‘Fish Fingers’ Tilapia.”

          • Robinson Tilapia

            “Holy shit. He can’t even throw the ball ten feet.”

  • RetroRob

    In the end, the contract we all disliked will end up being fine. All totaled, including his pending buyout, the Yankees will have spent $22.5M for two years of his service, including one as Mo’s replacement for a seasono when he was one of the top closers in the game. The Yankees will now also get a draft pick as he heads out the door.

    Untuck one final time Rafael. Job well done, but the Yankees rather have your $14M for next season to spend elsewhere.

  • UncleArgyle

    Remember when it was all the rage to bitch and moan about Soriano’s contract? “11 million on insurance! Oh the horror!” Then Mo gets hurt and all of a sudden its not such a bad idea after all to have a back up plan. Without Soriano, the Yankees finish behind Baltimore and Tampa. Worth every penny (of the Steinbrenner’s money)

    • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

      That’s slighly revisionist history. We complained about the contract beforehand. Some of us then appreciated his efforts this year, and were glad he was here, but still calling it a bad contract at the time of signing, which is a POV I still maintain.

      • UncleArgyle

        I never understood why people were complaining about the contract in the first place. Its not like the Yankees passed a hat around RAB and asked you to chip in.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          We do pay, however. It may be in higher ticket prices, higher cable costs to keep the YES network, higher prices for merchandise, etc. The team makes no money without fans. Every contract they take on has an impact on us.

          • vicki

            plus these ain’t yer father’s steinbrenners. when money is wasted on bad contracts it now potentially means less money spent elsewhere. opportunity cost. we fans feel it in our hearts if not our bank accounts.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Then let’s give everyone 150 million a year. Fuck it.

        • Mister D

          I cared a lot more about the pick than the money.

  • Barbara Booey

    Hey Axisa – let’s make this easier for you so you don’t waste more bandwidth with filler. For your next one, I bet you’ll have one that goes like this:

    What went wrong? Gardiner. What went right? Ichiro. Or maybe: What went wrong? Garcia. What went right? Phelps

    My point is, let’s stop with these stupid “Year in Review” type posts. We all know what happened this year. Post stuff on the minor league system, trade rumors, or insightful stuff that the average fan doesn’t already know.

    Posts that quote abstruse statistics to support whatever ulterior motives Axisa has are simply self-serving. Remember folks…RiverAvenueBlue’s bread is buttered by the Yankees…remember that first and foremost…it is not by any means an independent and objective source of analysis.

    • jjyank

      Dude. If you don’t agree, then fine. Some of us like to spend some time remembering the season we watched for the last 7 months. What else are they supposed to write about a week into the offseason, before baseball is even over? \

      There was a post on some scouting stuff on minor leaguers just today. Maybe Mike should just give you your money back.

    • Pat D

      Let’s see if this works now.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrjwaqZfjIY

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      Somewhat late to the party, but “RAB’s bread is buttered by the Yankees…remember that first and foremost…it is not by any means an independent and objective source of analysis.” Is just short of out right saying that Axisa only posts things the Yankees approve of him posting and it is just total bullshit. Anybody who reads RAB regularly knows Mike disagrees with moves the Yankees make all the time and regularly calls them out on moves all the time. Five of the top of my head 1. The Soriano signing 2. The Ichiro trade 3. Eduardo Nunez 4. Running Freddy Garcia and Cory Wade out there long past their effectiveness 5. Trusting Joba to save the bullpen this year as opposed to making a move when it was clear that Cory Wade was useless.

  • Bill

    UNTUCK

    • Get Phelps Up

      #untuck

  • JScott

    What else is left to be said other than…

    GOD BLESS RANDY LEVINE!

    I wonder (because I’m too lazy to look it up) if you ranked all of Cashman’s multi-year free agent relief pitcher signings from best to worst, where would Levine’s Soriano contract rank in terms of value received?

    Pretty damn high, I’d guess.

  • Grover

    I’m guilty of displaced blame on Soriano that should be directed at Levine. He has done much better than expected but I stll feel it is time to cut and run and spend the money elsewhere as Cashman has been exceptional at finding cheap bullpen talent. I would be more inclined to solve for Mo’s replacement after next year’s season.

  • Duh Innings

    I’ll be glad when Soriano opts out because it’ll be $12.5M off the books ($14M for 2013 he forgoes minus a $1.5M buyout) to go with $10.25M off the books letting go of Swisher, $4M off the books letting go of Garcia, $4M off the books letting go of Feliciano, and $2M off the books letting go of Jones for $32.75M total off the books letting go of those five plus $X off the books assuming Mariano Rivera re-signs for less than the $15M he made this past season ($10M more off the books if he takes $5M.)

    • Pat D

      Mo will want, and probably get more than $5 million. I’d be thrilled if they could save that much, but Mo has proven himself to be a bit of a stickler during negotiations.

      • Duh Innings

        Hey any amount under $15M is good.

        If he wants as much as $10M, that’s $5M cleared.

        I’ll find it hard to see him asking for that much considering he missed most of 2012 and he’ll be 43.

        If the Yanks offered him $5M that’s still $20M across two years where he barely played the first of the two.

        Also let’s not forget he got injured outside of a game doing something which was always risky he will never do again.

        ‘Love Mo, but he owes the Yanks a discount as he was tempting fate for many years shagging flyballs.

        Also one could argue he cost the Yanks Soriano cuz had he not got injured, Soriano wouldn’t have been in the position to have the 2012 he had which will make him opt out to be a closer elsewhere.

        No more shagging flyballs before games.

  • Duh Innings

    $32.75 cleared + $7.5M cleared letting go of Martin + $1.4M cleared if the Yanks can get Gardner for half the $2.8M he made barely playing for them in 2012 + 2M cleared letting go of Ibanez ($1.1M) and Chavez ($900K) = $43.65M total cleared.

    $43.65M – 4M raise to Kuroda on a one-year deal ($11M to $15M) =
    $39.65M – 4M raise to Pettitte on a one-year deal ($2.5M to $6.5M) =
    $35.65M – 1M Dioner Navarro for a year (C) =
    $34.65M – 3.5M Juan Rivera for a year (RF) =
    $31.15M – 11M first year of two years of Melky Cabrera (LF) =
    $20.15M – 5M extra cost of Alfonso Soriano from swapping $13M in 2012 Granderson for $18M in 2013 him (Soriano DH) =
    $15.15M – 2M raise for Hughes =
    $13.15M – 4M Kevin Youkilis for a year (super-backup 1B/3B) =

    $8.15M left over with a set rotation (Sabathia/Kuroda/Pettitte/Hughes/Nova, Phelps, or Warren), a set bullpen (Rivera/Robertson/Logan/Rapada/Aardsma/Eppley/Chamberlain), a set starting nine (Navarro/Teixiera/Cano/Rodriguez/Jeter/Cabrera/Gardner/J.Rivera/A.Soriano), and a set bench (Stewart/Nix/Youkilis/Dickerson.)

    See if Torii Hunter would take a year and $8.15M to be the RF (Juan Rivera backs up in LF and RF.)

  • Duh Innings

    Ten reasons why I want the Yanks to re-sign Navarro:

    1. He’ll be 29 in February.

    2. He’s has a 30% success rate throwing out basestealers.

    3. He made only $800K with the Reds this past season.

    4. He would be the classic low-risk, high-reward proposition: a year and a mil.

    5. The Yanks would clear at least $21.5M signing him (the minimum $22.5M Martin would want across three years – 1M paid to Navarro for 2013 only.)

    6. He’s a switch-hitter with some pop (not as much as Martin of course.)

    7. He’ll work even harder being back with the organization he started with.

    8. The Yanks have to save at a position if they are to keep any two from Rodriguez, Teixiera, and Granderson, or all three, lock up Cano, and sign an ace or #2 for 2014 among Lincecum, Johnson, and Lester et.al..

    9. I’d rather be stuck with him for one year if he sucks than Martin for three or four years if he sucks.

    10. Signing him helps the Yanks get to $189M payroll.