Thursday, November 1, 2012

Game on for Yankees and Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano officially opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees yesterday. That means the chess game between his camp and the Evil Empire (I’ve always loved that nickname) starts now.

I can’t blame Soriano for wanting a richer deal after the year he had, seamlessly stepping into Mariano Rivera’s legendary shoes to help the Yankees clinch the American League East title. But unlike during his last free agency, Soriano and his agent Scott Boras should not expect a last-minute lucrative offer from the Yankees to bail them out.

When Hal Steinbrenner signed Soriano, he did so over the objections of general manager Brian Cashman, who thought it was a mistake to lose a draft pick to sign Soriano as a set-up man and openly said so. I doubt Steinbrenner is going to overrule Cashman this time around, especially if he expects the general manager to meet his mandate to cut payroll to that $189 million threshold and avoid the penalties that would come due under the new collective bargaining agreement. The Yankees don’t have a lot of payroll flexibility and letting Soriano walk away would help reduce their salary commitments.

But Soriano and Boras do have the leverage of uncertainty surrounding Mariano Rivera, both on his desire to pitch for another year and his recovery from a devastating knee injury. It’s still unclear what Mo’s plans are and while I hope he returns to the Yankees, Cashman & Co might be worried about not having a closer if he ultimately decides to retire and may give in to Boras demands.

These negotiations will be fascinating. Let the battle begin!

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