I saw two interesting articles this morning on the Yankees possibly targeting star reliever Rafael Soriano, and I wanted to comment briefly on the issue. The first comes from Mike Silva, who addresses concerns about the fact that Soriano will cost the Yankees a first round draft pick:
Back in March of ’10, Moshe Mandel of the Yankee U recapped a John Sickels conversation with Yankees VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman. In that column, Newman pointed out how they have relied on the international market, as well as risking lower draft picks on players that are signability issues, because the lower first round picks don’t have the highest ceilings. Knowing that, I don’t think the lack of a first round pick eliminates the Yankees from having a productive draft in 2011.
This is not the Yankees of the turn of the century, who had a shallow farm system and needed to plug a majority of their holes via free agency. They are rich with arms, catchers, and have seen some positional player’s progress over the last couple of years. I do not think they should sacrifice the big league club because of the possibility there is a gem in the 2011 amateur draft.
Silva goes on to suggest that the Yankees target Soriano on a one year deal, as the market on him has seemingly dried up. Joe Pawlikowski over RAB responded to Silva’s post:
The point, made concretely, is that even previously good relievers can collapse at any time. Soriano could certainly help the Yankees if he progresses in the same way as Francisco Cordero, but at that point is he worth the salary and the draft pick? This is where I’d say I lean towards the leave him alone camp. The signing would be risky enough without losing the draft pick. Adding in that factor has me opposing a Soriano acquisition.
Silva’s counterpoint: why not a one-year deal? That would certainly reduce risk. But if Soriano gets hurt, or has terrible luck, as we’ve seen with a number of relievers previously, the loss of the draft pick hurts that much. I’m not saying that’s probable, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. I’d actually feel a bit better about losing the draft pick over a multiyear deal than a one-year deal, since the Yanks can still get some value out of Soriano in later years of the contract if he flops in the first.
I disagree with Joe’s last point, as I think a one year deal mitigates both the risk of injury and the draft pick issue. A one year commitment means that an injury will not hurt you past 2011, such that the worst case scenario is that the Yankees lose his salary and need to add another reliever during the season. As for the draft pick, it seems fairly likely that Soriano will be worth draft picks next off season as well. Unless he totally falls apart, the Yankees are likely to offer him arbitration. If he remains a Type A free agent, the Yankees would actually earn an additional pick, as they will only sacrifice one this year while gaining two upon his departure. Even if he declines to a Type B, he will be worth a supplemental pick, costing the Yankees about 10-15 spots in draft position plus one year of developing a prospect. While that is not an insignificant cost, it is not high enough to prevent the club from signing a player of Soriano’s ilk. Conversely, a multi-year deal increases the risks associated with a major injury, and pushes the retrieval of draft picks further into the future.
Ultimately, the Yankees interest should depend on the market. If Soriano has teams that are willing to give him a multi-year contract, the Yankees should heed Joe’s warning about long-term deals for relievers and back away. However, if the market does in fact make a one-year contract feasible, it would behoove the Yankees to consider making an offer for Soriano’s services.