Just a few random Rafael Soriano thoughts bouncing through my head while I listen to this four-song Black Dub performance for roughly the 20th time in the past four days.
• While I’m not sure an eighth-inning reliever is worth this much money, I’ll agree that the money is a non-issue for 2011. The Yankees had plenty of room in the budget, and even with Soriano, they still seem to have plenty of payroll space to sign Andy Pettitte, improve the bench and land a back-of-the-rotation starter. The financial concerns come in years two and three. If Soriano pitches up to his contract, he’ll have the ability to opt out. If he doesn’t live up to expectation, the Yankees are still on the hook. Soriano has all the leverage, and that’s the financial danger of this deal. The Yankees are taking on all of the risk. Soriano’s only risk is that he won’t be pitching the ninth inning (though he’ll still be paid like a closer).
• In the great Joba Chamberlain debate, I’ve generally been on the side of developing him as a starter rather than reaping the immediate benefit of using him in the bullpen. That said, at this point, I think the Yankees have seen enough to make an informed decision about his ultimate upside and where he fits best. It’s hard to know a lot about a young pitcher after one season — which is when all of the Joba hype reached its peak — but after four seasons, the Yankees probably have a good idea what they’re dealing with. He might still be wasting his talent as a reliever, but I can’t say that for certain, and neither can anyone else. It’s all about projection, and that’s tricky. What I’ve found interesting is that for several weeks there has been a general sentiment that the Yankees needed to upgrade their eighth-inning situation because Chamberlain couldn’t be trusted in that role, but now that Soriano is in the mix, there’s an overwhelming belief that Chamberlain can be an elite starter again. Why would anyone who didn’t want him in the eighth inning suddenly want him in the rotation?
• Buster Olney has confirmed what was already suspected: That Soriano was an “ownership-driven” signing. That makes sense. Obviously Brian Cashman isn’t always going to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when he speaks to the media, but it’s unusual for him to so be adamant about one thing — in this case, not losing a draft pick — only to turn around a week later and do the exact opposite. This kind of deal also goes against Cashman’s tactics of the past few seasons. For the most part, Yankees fans seem to love the signing — and I doubt they care who exactly made it happen — but it’s an interesting situation.
• Speaking of which, great job this week by Jon Heyman. Even though Cashman had publicly shot down any chance of the Yankees signing Soriano, Heyman stuck to his story, constantly reporting that sources were telling him the Yankees were very much in pursuit. Heyman took a lot of heat — on Twitter and in the comments of this blog — but he had the story right, and he’s the one who broke it last night. That’s good stuff.
• Daniel Turpen, Robert Fish and Romulo Sanchez — the two Rule 5 picks and an out-of-options reliever — should probably start working on their long-relief skills. All of the one-inning jobs seem to be taken at this point.