When bad contracts go good


(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

As expected, Rafael Soriano opted out of the final year of his contract with the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon. He’ll try to parlay his big season as Mariano Rivera‘s injury replacement into another fat multi-year contract, like the one the club’s ownership gave him two winters ago. Unless Mo retires or something really crazy happens, the two sides will part ways after one decent and one really good year.

Soriano, 32, pitched to a 2.94 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 107 innings with the Yankees over the last two years. Thirty-nine and one-third of those innings came last year (4.12 ERA and 3.97 FIP), when he struggled for a few weeks before missing more than two months with the fifth elbow injury of his career. The other 67.2 innings came this year when he was brilliant (2.26 ERA and 3.32 FIP), stepping in for Rivera and going 42-for-46 in save chances. The ninth inning stability he provided in place of Mo was enormous as well, that was a situation that could have easily spiraled out of control.

Like many others, I trashed Soriano’s contract when the deal was announced. The silly opt-out clauses meant the Yankees carried all the risk, which wasn’t ideal since his history of elbow trouble meant he was riskier than most players in general. If he got hurt and/or stunk, they were stuck with him. If he pitched well, they wouldn’t get to keep him. Heck, the only reason Soriano was with the team this season was because he got hurt and kinda stunk last year, enough so that he couldn’t get more money on the open market. Now that he had a great year, he’s gone. The Yankees still got to enjoy that great year of course, but considering that Rivera is still flirting with retirement, wouldn’t it be nice to have Soriano around for another year? Instead, he and Scott Boras held all the cards.

Considering everything involved, Soriano’s time in pinstripes went about as well as possible. He was overpaid but so is basically every free agent reliever, it comes with the territory. The Yankees managed to squeeze one elite year out of him and got lucky in the sense that his 2011 elbow problem didn’t turn into something more serious, something serious enough to turn him and his contract into an albatross. The Yankees rolled the dice and were ultimately rewarded, but I really hope they don’t make a habit out of letting players control future roster spots and payroll with opt-out clauses like this.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. 0-fur is murder says:

    I think the Yankees need to trader for Tim Tebow. He can pitch, play RF, 3B or ever (Mo forbid) play SS… Tim Tebow’s grititude makes Brett Gardner look like a pansy :)

  2. LarryM., Fl. says:

    Yes, Soriano pitched well for us but out of the Yankee duo of Robertson and Joba. I believe their is closer material available. What separates Mo from Soriano is location superiority and the ability to hit and change the spots. What separates Soriano is the same premise of location and the ability to change the location from Joba and Robertson. Joba or Robertson who both throw too many pitches per inning. If they could get better with the location then we would have our closer from one of them. Ardsma 7th inning guy. I think its doable.

  3. Travis L. says:

    Call me old fashioned or maybe I’m just not into spectacles on the field, but his #untuck kinda got to me. I’m just used to the Rivera calm out there. He saves a game and shakes hands. Thats it. No huge “signature move” or anything like that. Just a “go out there and do it” attitude. That being said, Soriano did a great job in 2012…but, buh-bye. Lets get some guys coming off injury (Soria, Madson, etc.) or scrap heap non-tenders (supposedly Logan Ondrusak from CIN is a candidate) and give them a shot at a supporting role to Joba, D-Rob and Mo (if he comes back).

    • jjyank says:

      I would love Soria or Madson. If Rivera comes back, he closes, and a back end of Robertson, Joba, Aardsma, and Soria/Madson would be pretty damn good.

      • 0-fur is murder says:

        Soria and Madson would really make this a shutdown bullpen. Soria and Madosn might want to go somewhere they’ll be able to close. If Mo is back they won’t close. I wonder if enough $$$$ can change their minds.

        • jjyank says:

          This is true, but like you said, money talks. Soriano took the Yankees money knowing he wouldn’t close.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            I think the future money of getting paid for saves might talk louder then a little more money on a one year deal. (Closers get a ridiculous premium on the market.) If I am them and I want to maximize my earnings, I go somewhere that I can close. And if I am the Yankees, I am not paying them enough above market value to change their minds.

    • 0-fur is murder says:

      Mo is classy that way. I guess the Joba fist pump and the Soriano untuck don’t bug me because they are Yankees but I wanted to punch Papelbon in the face everytime he closed a game. I hate his antics.

      • MannyGeee says:

        good thing they dont close games that matter to us in Philly, because I really hated that guy. Like, Valverde/Brian Wilson hate….

        • JAG says:

          Based on how the Phillies were doing up until early September, they weren’t closing a lot of games at all most of the year.

  4. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    The problem with the “We need a $15m a year closer or we suck.” idea is that every year the Rays blow it up. The sole reason we are sitting here saying “Well I’m glad we that soriano contract” is because of one unlucky turn of an ankle.

    Rivera retires this year or next year, either way no amount of money will insure you of a Mo II.

    • 0-fur is murder says:

      Rays do a lot of things well. Develop good starting pitching, find good cheap relief pitching, good coaching but not a lot of teams can say that. They are the exception to the rule, not the rule.

  5. jjyank says:

    I warmed up to MFIKY quite a bit this year. I’d kind of like to see him back, but not at the contract he will likely command. Thanks for all the untucks my man.

  6. Laz says:

    I hate opt-out clauses. Sure this one could help the yankees out, but really, just accept your contract. You get hurt the team doesn’t get to opt you out.

  7. Mike says:

    $22.5 million for 3.1 rWAR, or $7.26 million per rWAR. Not great, but not as terrible as it could have been.

  8. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    Also, whomever approved the “So when I tell you I’m leaving and don’t want to play for you anymore I want you to also pay me $1.5m” needs to be fired or at least made to stand outside the vendors in the bleachers and apologize to the fans for being an idiot.

    • 0-fur is murder says:

      I think the buyouts are just a way to defer salary to the next years payroll. Stands out to us that he gets paid to go away but the Yankees might have done it so he was a 13.5M reliever instead of a $15M reliever.

  9. MannyGeee says:

    Well, for all the hate that we gave the contract, Randy Levine actually stumbled himself into looking like a genius for signing Soriano.

  10. Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

    You were awesome this year MFIKY, but if Mo’s coming back and you want a similar contract to the one Levine wrote up while drunk a few years ago…thanks for the many #untucks but there’s the door.

  11. Ton Lon ton says:

    When I close for peanuts you will all be sorry

  12. I think I was pretty close to being right on this one, so I’m patting myself on the back:

  13. bpdelia says:

    not trying to be confrontational but I think its time to admit that teams value elite reliever war at more than 5 million. I can understand this. because relievers at so volatile argues FOR placing a dollar premium on the very few sure thing relievers out there. there is a legitimate argument about whether workshop is one of those sure things. but a team with payroll flexibility has a good idea to place a premium on elite sure thing reliever war because volatile ninth inning relievers are extremely frustrating and cause difficult media/fan narratives. so basically we need to admit that a tiny portion of relievers (FA late inning relievers with a nice history of finding independent success over a many season sample) are being valued by MS at 7 to 8 million per win. at some point you have to defer to the combined judgement of 30 GMs. and ask if perhaps the industry valuation is correct.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s the industry standard, but I also think it’s an easy way for well run orgs to save money. To get to $189 million I think no high cost RPs should be a key for the Yankees.

      You can also save a ton of money at other spots, but I think it’s easier to save money for the same performance in the pen then elsewhere.

      • bpdelia says:

        i agree on that ted. im just frustrated with the sheep screaming “Reliever overpay!!!!!” as i recall you and I were both shouted down for saying at the time ” it may be an overpay but the industry has a different reluver war value than fangraphs. b)rivera is old and this is an effective hedge and c) regardless of $ soriano is an extremely good player with a history of being good to fantastic every year he ha been healthy.” this was all before the draconian luxury tax issues of the new cba and obviously now it isnt an option. but at the time yoy and i were routinely being attacked for our lack of utter outrage.

  14. bpdelia says:

    my phone changed “soriano” to “workshop”. it also changes “carmelo to melody,…..weird.

  15. rondd5 says:

    …..I know it’s been said before but….I just don’t believe it’s realistic to expect mo to pitch a whole season and the play-off’s….it doesn’t seem like a sane strategy…

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