I realize there have been a ton of posts on the Rafael Soriano signing, but I just wanted to add some additional thoughts to the mix that may not have been covered by the other posts (and that’s pretty much all that’s going on right now).
1. I don’t see any way that Soriano opts out after 2011, even if he has a strong season. A look at the list of potential free agents in 2012 on Cot’s reveals that next year’s free agent market will likely have a glut of relief pitchers. Among the big names eligible for free agency in 2012 are: Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, and Jose Valverde. In that market (even if a few of those guys sign extensions or accept arbitration), the huge number of available arms will likely limit competition and probably suppress salaries. With 11+million coming to him in 2012, plus the role of setting up for Mariano Rivera in the last year of his contract, I imagine Soriano will stick around to see if Rivera retires. If he does, Soriano will likely step in for Rivera as Yankee closer in the last year of his contract, and be in line for a big payday (or he could opt out and force the Yankees to resign him to a big multi-year contract in a weaker relief market in 2012).
2. Although I was upset to lose a 1st-round pick in a strong draft for a relief pitcher, the lack of a 1st-rounder certainly does not preclude the Yankees from drafting a number of impact players (as Steve alluded to yesterday). Early picks matter more to teams that adhere to slot regulations, whereas teams such as the Yankees can sign high-round talents in later rounds (albeit, a lot of these players could have flaws or inflated bonus demands, but the Yankees would never have a shot at a flawless draft prospect anyway). As long as they are willing to be aggressive in drafting talented players who slip due to high bonus demands (and I imagine there will be a lot of those in this loaded draft), they can still have a strong draft. It’s a little too early to determine who is going to go where in the draft, but I imagine that more impact players will enter the draft this year with the possibility of hard draft slotting in the next collective bargaining agreement. This increases the probability of a legitimate 1st-round talent falling (Bubba Starling? Sonny Gray?).
3. I’m thinking that the Soriano signing may be a sign that Andy Pettitte will not be back next season. Obviously nothing official has been announced, but I wonder if bolstering the bullpen became an increased priority with the knowledge that Pettitte will not be back in pinstripes, and the rotation is likely to be weak in the back end. I hope that the Soriano move gives the Yankees reason to consider Joba in the rotation again. Considering that the current alternative is Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova, it’s pretty obvious that Joba’s ceiling as a starter is much higher (at least than Mitre, even if you’re bearish on Joba as a starter).
4. This is pretty obvious, but it bears mentioning nonetheless: the Yankees should have a damn good bullpen next season. If Joba stays in the pen, that gives the Yankees two strikeout artists (Joba and David Robertson) who could pitch in middle relief. Additionally, the rubber-armed Pedro Feliciano and hard-throwing Boone Logan give the Yankees options to match up with tough lefties (and we know Girardi loves the lefty-on-lefty matchup). Assuming Mo is still Mo, and Soriano is the pitcher he was last season, teams will have a tough time coming back on the Yankees. However, even the world’s greatest bullpen can’t win games if your starters put you in a hole.