The Closer Conundrum


The closer position is one of the biggest and most interesting questions for the Yankees into the winter. Unsurprisingly, Rafael Soriano opted out of his three-year, $35 million contract with the Yankees on Wednesday.  Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras, is known to get the most money for his clients as possible.

“Scott Boras told me he was confident that he could get Rafael a $60-million contract for four years,” team president Randy Levine said. “We like Rafael Soriano. We want him back. If that’s what his agent can get him, I understand why he opted out.”

The Yankees will make Soriano a qualifying offer worth $13.3 million to assure themselves a draft pick if he leaves. The Yankees will have no interest in Soriano for a four-year contract, but they could be open to a two-year deal if Mariano Rivera does retire.

It will be interesting to see how much Soriano can get on the open market. Soraino had a stellar year for the Yankees filling in for the injured Rivera. He saved 42 games for the Yankees and pitched to a 2.26 ERA. However, teams have paid for over paying closers on the open market lately, which could limit Soriano’s value, especially since he is turning 33 next month.

The Yankees find themselves in a very tough situation in dealing with Soriano. Rivera, who initially vowed to comeback next season after tearing his ACL, has told Brian Cashman that he is undecided about his return. I see it as more of a negotiating ploy, as the Yankees may be hesitant to pay Rivera close to the money he has been making in the past, since he his 42 and coming off a serious injury. He has worked very hard in his rehab and is very prideful, so I see him returning.

However, if Rivera doesn’t return, the Yankees do not want to get stuck without an experienced closer. David Robertson has been a great setup man for the Yankees, but he has been unimpressive in his few opportunities to close. Closing out the game in the ninth is much different from getting outs in the eighth. There is a huge difference in it mentally that certain pitchers can’t get past and Robertson may be one of those guys.  The Yankees have been spoiled with the greatest closer ever for so long and by Soriano last year, but it is not that easy to find a good closer.

If the situation arises where Soriano goes elsewhere and Rivera retires two pitchers the Yankees should consider are Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson. In fact, they should pursue them either way. The Royals declined their option on Soria, who missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery. Madson is another player who missed 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers were elite closers before their injuries and pitchers have been fine coming off Tommy John surgery lately.

The Yankees are in quite a bind here. Letting Soriano walk would mean they would be taking a big gamble that Rivera is healthy and effective in 2013. On the flip side, they don’t want to overspend on Soriano and have Rivera come back strong in 2013.  Then, there is the doomsday scenario that I mentioned before; Soriano could move on to another team and Rivera could then  retire, leaving the Yankees potentially stuck with an inexperienced closer in 2013.

Rivera is obviously a Yankees legend, so it will be interesting to see how much money he gets if he decides to return to the Yankees. The Yankees proved with Derek Jeter that they are not afraid to tell a legend that they will only pay him what they think he is worth. It is just another question, among many others, that the Yankees will face this offseason.

About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on November 2, 2012, in Hot Stove and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I think David Aardsma has to be an option should Mo and Sori leave. He’s had experience as a closer before in Seattle, and the Yankees signed him for this potential scenario. They probably knew prior to Mo getting injured that 2012 would have been his last year, and they also knew like we all did that Soriano would opt out.

    So they signed Aardsma in hopes that he could rehab, pitch a little this year, and then pick up his 2013 option for him to contend for the closer spot next spring. He has the stuff and the mentality, as he’s succeeded before, so I’d look at him as a potential in-house suitor, one that could work wonders for the Yanks.

  2. Its a possibility for sure Brian.

  3. Scott Boras makes my skin crawl. I suppose he’s only doing what his clients want so he actually shouldn’t be blamed by he’s just so slimy.

    There is no way Soriano sniffs $60M over 4 years. Although a good closer is a valuable part of any team, it is not wise to go multiple years at big money for one. Like all relievers, closers are extremely volatile. It is rare for a closer to be dominate for several years in a row and the league is full of cautionary tales for why you don’t give out long-term deals to closers. Guys like Madson, Heath Bell, Valverde & Soria went from All-Stars to injured or ineffective in 1 yr while a fat, 35-yr old journeyman signs for $2 Million and becomes the best closer in the A.L…….Fernando Rodney.

    The longest/largest contract for a closer lately has been Papelbon’s 4 year $50M deal and most agree that was a ridiculous contract. And Papelbon was 30 yrs old with 6 straight 30 save seasons and a 2.30 career ERA. Soriano is 2 yrs older and although he was great this yr and 2010, was injured and ineffective in 2011. When he was a FA 2 yrs ago, the best he could get was 3 yrs $35M to be a set-up man.

    • fishjam…
      How are things in your area? I take it everyone came through fine! I hope the others have been safe also!

      Many players hirer Scott to get that one big contract then get rid of him…fast. He is such an ass to deal with, a lot of GM won’t deal with him at all.
      Most of the players don’t even know what he is doing until they have to face the press and say they had nothing to do with whatever happened.
      Aardsma is one of the front-runners of those already on the team but, I think Joba can do the job.
      If Joba wants the job he needs to work for it…hard. He has all the talent and disposition needed to do the job but, he needs to learn how to work and keep himself in shape. At the end of the year Joe was bringing joba in with guys in scoring position or at the beginning of an inning…whenever he was in, he did a good job!

      • Hi Ken……we made it through OK in my area. Tons of trees down but luckily none struck the house. We are still without power and likely will be for another week. The generator is great but finding gas with 75-80% of the gas stations closed is a tall order. I hear tomorrow they wil start to ration fuel like they did in the 70s by only allowing cars with odd number license plates to fill up, then even numbers the following day. But all told, we were very lucky as the shore areas in the south of NJ were absolutely devastated. Massive flooding destroyed many houses.

        You are right about Boras. Many players only hire him a year before Free Agency to get the big contract then dump him a couple of years later. That’s fine with Boras….he gets the big commission then moves on. Joba is certainly an enigma. He certainly has the talent to close but his mechanics, work ethic and consistency both scare me. He oten has great stuff but he can lose concentration for one second and hang a slider that changes the outcome of a game. 2013 is a huge year for him because he can be a FA after the season.

        • Thank God you and yours are ok, just look at the light side…you and your family will have something to talk about for years to come! I can see it now, when you are telling it to your grandkids they won’t believe anything like that ever happened. LOL

          Joba does have mechanics problems, which leads to consistency but, he says he has learned his lesson on work ethic…let us hope. I guess we shall see what we see in the spring. Good health and luck for all you guys. 🙂

          • Thanks Ken. We know we are very lucky. The shear number of trees that are down in my area it’s amazing that nothing landed on a car or the house. And so many people lost everything. Me having to live without power for a week or 2 is nothing. I mean, I could have a rod in my leg or a plate in my head, or both like a friend of mine….lol. How is your health lately Ken? Are you still chasing away the nurses?

            • Heck, I am fine now, no plate in my head, just a bad left hand but, it is coming along.

              I feel a bit guilty about this Sandy invasion, we had nothing but a bit of rain. Have you and Matthew heard from everyone yet?

              I haven’t seen Twasp, ballpark, JIM22224444, FreeHankies, Matt S., Delia or posting at all. Anyone have information?

              Nice to see you guys are much better and handling thing well. I must admit, I have been through tornadoes but nothing like you have endured with Sandy!

              Let’s hope everyone is well and we hear from them soon.

              • Damn, I forgot to add Patrick to the list of the missing, anyone hear from him?

                • OldYankee – Twasp, Hankies & Delia have posted so they are OK. Michael P, Brian, Matthew B, & Jimmy Toucan have also posted. Matt S. is OK but he’s had to work all through this ordeal as he his line of work can never close.

                  The guys we haven’t heard from are Ballpark, JIM and Doug. I’ve tried to call Ballpark but haven’t gotten through.

        • I was in pretty much the same situation Fish. Up in north jersey we just had a bunch of trees and power lines down but thankfully no flooding. We had to get up at 5:30 and go to PA sometimes to get gas but it was worth it for the generator.

  4. I’d be happy with either Mo or Soriano for a 1-yr deal. Offer Soriano the qualifying offer…..if he refuses it, take the pick and give Mo a 1-yr deal. If they both come back for 1 year so be it. If neither want to come back, you look for someone else on a 1-yr deal. Between Aardsma, Joba & Robertson a closer should emerge and you could also offer Madson or Soria the same type of 1 yr with an option that they gave Aardsma. Guys like Broxton, Peralta & Farnsworth are possibilities too but I really think Mo or Sori will be back….probably Mo.

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