Heyman: Yankees open to two-year deal for Soriano

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are open to re-signing right-hander Rafael Soriano to a two-year contract even though Mariano Rivera will return next season. They haven’t made him an offer (other than the qualifying offer) and don’t appear to be in a rush to do so, however.

The Yankees are said to be fixated on one-year contracts this winter in advance of the 2014 payroll plan, but a two-year pact with Soriano would give them a made-ready replacement for Rivera when he presumably calls it a career after the season. This offseason’s two other elite free agent relievers (Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria) are both coming off Tommy John surgery and there figures to be some hesitation about giving either guy multiple years, especially Soria since it’s his second elbow reconstruction. If Scott Boras can’t get Soriano three years this winter, he never will.

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Kuroda, Soriano & Swisher all decline qualifying offer

As expected, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, and Hiroki Kuroda have all declined their qualifying offers. The first two guys made their intentions known last night, but there was still a small chance that Kuroda would accept the one-year, $13.3M contract by today’s deadline. He’s generated enough interest so far that finding more money shouldn’t be an issue.

The Yankees are now entitled to draft pick compensation whenever one of these guys signs with another team. That pick will be a supplemental first rounder, though they won’t receive the other team’s first round pick as with the old rules. Based on last year’s slot system, each of these compensation picks will carry a seven-figure slot value, which will really help the draft pool situation. Of course the Yankees will have a hard time replacing all three of these guys if they sign elsewhere, so the pick is little more than a consolation prize.

Update: The three compensation picks are guaranteed to be somewhere in the 29th-38th overall pick range next year. Won’t be higher, won’t be lower, could be anywhere in between.

Update: Swisher & Soriano will decline qualifying offer

8:31pm: Mark Feinsand says Nick Swisher will decline the qualifying offer as well, which again is not surprising. Feinsand says five teams have already showed serious interest in signing him, including the Rangers and Mariners.

7:38pm: As expected, Rafael Soriano will decline the team’s qualifying offer before tomorrow’s deadline according to Jon Heyman. If and when he signs elsewhere, the Yankees will receive a supplemental first round draft pick as compensation. Nick Swisher is also expected to decline while there’s an outside chance Hiroki Kuroda accepts. I hope he does.

Yankees make qualifying offers to Swisher, Kuroda, Soriano

As expected, the Yankees have made qualifying offers to Nick Swisher, Hiroki Kuroda, and Rafael Soriano, the team announced. The offers are worth $13.3M this offseason and the players have until next Friday to accept or reject. Making the offer allows the Yankees to receive a supplemental first round draft pick if the player signs elsewhere.

Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte did not receive qualifying offers since it’s basically Yankees or retirement for them. Russell Martin was always a long shot for the offer and it’s not surprising the Yankees passed.

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.

Update: Rafael Soriano officially opts out of contract

3:45pm: Soriano has officially opted out of his contract, the Yankees announced. He’ll receive a $1.5M buyout on his way out the door. Heyman says that Randy Levine asked Scott Boras what it would take to keep Soriano in pinstripes, but the agent said it was best for him to explore free agency first.

9:10am: As expected, Rafael Soriano will opt-out of the final year of his contract today according to Jon Heyman. Today is the deadline for option decisions, and the Yankees will make the right-hander a qualifying offer by Friday to ensure draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. Click here for the full offseason schedule.

Soriano, 32, pitched to a 2.26 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 67.2 innings this year. He went 42-for-46 in save chances after Mariano Rivera went down with a knee injury in early-May. The Yankees signed him to a three-year, $35M contract prior to 2011, and he’ll be leaving $14M on the table in favor of a potential multi-year deal. Brandon League’s new three-year, $22.5M deal with the Dodgers is a good indication that someone will pay Soriano handsomely this winter, though it did take a potential suitor away. I think the only way the Yankees look to bring him back is if Rivera retires.

What Went Right: Rafael Soriano

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.