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LaTroy Hawkins Redux: The Soriano Experiment

Every time Rafael Soriano pitches, he has the chance to either prove Brian Cashman wrong and dominate the 8th inning of games therefore shortening a Yankees’ game to 7 innings. Or he can prove Brian Cashman right by pitching the way he’s pitched thus far, giving up 3 fewer earned runs than he gave up all of last season.

In 2010, Soriano had a season that put him on the map as a closer in the majors – 45 saves, 1.73 ERA in 62.1 IP. Prior to that, he had a little more than half a season as a closer and pitched in various bullpen roles. I would not throw any closer into the upper tier after one season but suddenly Soriano was there as baseball’s elite. There are hundreds of closers that shut the door for a season or two before vanishing into baseball anonymity.

Strangely enough, the list of potential employers was short when the off-season came. So short that the Yankees ended up being the only team on the list and they did a great job of not only out-bidding themselves but dividing the front office, again. This time it’s not a Tampa/NY division per-se, rather it’s a division of spending the money on Soriano and losing the draft pick or not.

His signing only made sense if you thought of it from the perspective of him dominating the 8th inning and shortening a game. But the terms of the deal made absolutely no sense. Three years, $35 million, with player opt-outs after each of the first two years? Any Yankees’ fan hopes to see #42 closing out games for the next two seasons so giving Soriano the option to opt-out lets him escape on his terms while taking enormous sums of money for a role he is suddenly having to adjust to and is obviously not comfortable in. Granted, opting out means he would need another team to come along with more money on the table. It’s hardly likely that Soriano would bow out of New York without a guarantee someplace else, even if the Bronx spotlight is too much for him to pitch under.

At this point the Yankees would have been better off with a number of other relievers (Grant Balfour immediately comes to mind) or better yet, signing Alfonso Soriano to pitch the 8th may have been just as effective. Surely Rafael Soriano can rebound to match, or at least come close, to last season’s output but it’s hard to fathom at this stage that he will only give up three more runs if he throws another 50 or so innings.

At this point, even bringing back LaTroy Hawkins would have made more sense; just don’t give him #21 to start his career in pinstripes. For now, that’s the only solace Rafael Soriano can take since his #29 only evokes memories of Jessie Barfield.

  1. AND all this nonsense that he can't perform BECAUSE its the 8th inning and not the 9th inning is such crap. Its the dumbest excuse I've ever heard – you know what Rafy – tell ur self its the 9th – its still ONE inning – you still have to get only 3 outs – maybe if they make HOLD an official stat, he would care more…oye!

  2. For now, it's really looking like it was a bad signing. It is amazing that closers have that sort of mentality where if it's anything but a 3 or less run lead in the 9th, they are suddenly not themselves.

    If the money is the key, Soriano will probably not opt out, he won't find that sort of deal every year. However, if he wants to be a closer again, he can easily point out the difference in being the setup with the Yankees vs. closer with the Rays and opt out and easily find a team considering there are a number of shaky bullpens.

    Maybe Rivera's brief time in high socks made him feel a little younger and we'll have more years of #42…

  3. @Greg – I do think holds should be an official stat. It's used to negotiate deals for relief pitchers should the #s should be more relevant. Strangely, he had 50 something holds coming into this year. I'm not sure what gives. Similarly, I want inherited runners scored to be a more prevalent stat in baseball. I think D-Rob does a great job with that but that's just based on memory which might be biased.

    @Ryan – You may be right. Even if money is the key here, he may still be able to slip away from the Yanks and find another 3 year deal elsewhere. Similar to the hype that was surrounding CC this off-season.

    Twitter – @kingdj27

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