When the Rafael Soriano signing becomes official, the Yankees will surrender their first-round pick in the 2011 draft. It’s part of the cost for a Type-A free agent. History has shown, though, that neither a multi-year relief contract nor a first-round pick comes with consistent success.
These are the Yankees multi-year relief contracts from the past decade. Obviously I’m just dealing with middle relievers and not closers. For the Yankees, the hope is that Soriano’s lengthy track record will carry over and make him one of the few bright spots on this list.
Chris Hammond – December 2002, two years, $4.6 million
Pitched 63 innings with a 2.86 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in the first year. Traded for the start of the season year for two career minor leaguers.
Tom Gordon — December 2003, two years, $7.25 million
Pitched 170.1 innings with a 2.38 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. When his contract ended, Gordon signed with the Phillies and became their closer for a year.
Paul Quantrill — December 2003, two years, $6.8 million
Pitched 127.1 innings with a 5.23 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Led the AL in games pitched in the first year and was traded to San Diego in the middle of the second.
Felix Heredia – December 2003, two years, $3.8 million
Pitched 38.2 innings with a 6.28 ERA and 1.65 WHIP, all in the first year of the contract. Traded to the Mets before the start of the second year.
Kyle Farnsworth – November 2005, three years, $17 million
Pitched 170.1 innings with a 4.33 ERA and 1.39 WHIP before being traded in the middle of the final year of his contract.
Mike Myers – December 2005, two years, $2.4 million
Lefty specialist was ultimately released in the second year of the deal.
Damaso Marte — November 2008, three years, $12 million
First two years, pitched 31 innings with a 6.39 ERA. Likely to miss all of the final year of his contract.
The Yankees past 15 first-round picks have been incredibly hit or miss. The mistakes never made it to the big leagues, but the ceiling is far higher than any of the relief pitchers mentioned above. Also worth considering is the trade value of these players when they’re moved early. C.J. Henry has never played at the big league level, but he did help the Yankees get Bobby Abreu.
LHP Eric Milton – 1996, 20th overall
One-time Major League all-star had an 11-year big league career, none of it with the Yankees. They traded him to the Twins in the Chuck Knoblauch deal.
OF Tyrell Godwin – 1997, 24th overall
Didn’t sign. Eventually drafted again by the Blue Jays in the third round of 2001. Total of three big league at-bats.
OF Andy Brown – 1998, 24th overall
Never advanced beyond Double-A. Hit just .228/.309/.407 in his minor league career.
RHP Dave Walling — 1999, 27th overall
Career lasted just three full seasons before he walked away from the game after reaching Triple-A. Had a career ERA of 4.10 in the minors.
C Dave Parrish – 2000, 28th overall
Career .243/.323/.354 hitter in the minor leagues. Never got to the majors.
OF John-Ford Griffin – 2001, 23rd overall
Thirteen games of Major League experience. Career .267/.347/.457 hitter in the minor leagues.
3B Eric Duncan – 2003, 27th overall
Moved quickly in his first few years but has so far topped out in Triple-A. Became a part-time player through parts of his final season in the Yankees system.
RHP Phil Hughes — 2004, 23rd overall
Became an all-star in his first full season as a Major League starter.
SS C.J. Henry — 2005, 17th overall
Traded to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu. Has since quit baseball to play college basketball.
RHP Ian Kennedy -- 2006, 26th overall
Got to New York in his first full season as a pro, but struggled when given a rotation job the next year. Ultimately traded to Arizona where he had a 3.80 ERA last season.
RHP Andrew Brackman – 2007, 30th overall
Had a 3.01 ERA in 2010, his second year back from Tommy John surgery. Considered one of the top three pitching prospects in the system.
RHP Gerrit Cole — 2008, 28th overall
Known to be a signing risk, Cole chose to attend UCLA rather than pitch for the Yankees.
CF Slade Heathcott – 2009, 29th overall
A compensation pick because the Yankees failed to sign Cole the year before. Hit .258/.359/.352 in his first full season as a pro.
SS Cito Culver – 2010, 32nd overall
Teenager is likely to open this season in extended spring training.
Associated Press photos of Marte and Hughes