Friday, January 14, 2011

Burning a hole in their pockets

Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, has delivered another example of why little a GM says for public consumption can be taken at face value.

This is Cashman last week:

“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick. I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.”

Rafael Soriano had 45 saves last
season for Tampa Bay; now he'll
set up Mariano Rivera.
That was last week, this is this week. The Yankees have reached an agreement with Rafael Soriano, last year's AL save leader and a Type A free agent offered arbitration by Tampa Bay. As a result, the Yankees forfeit their first round pick in June to the Rays.

Beyond the inherent untrustworthiness of general managers, I draw two inferences from this move:

  1. The Yankees don't think Andy Pettitte will return
  2. The Yankees have become another organization overpaying for established relief pitching.

Cashman had money set aside for the starting rotation. He expected to land Lee; he waited for Pettitte. Lee is gone, and Pettitte remains quasi-retired. He surveyed the market of starting pitchers, didn't like what he sees, and opted to spend on his bullpen instead.

Soriano is certainly a quality arm. A 1.73 ERA and a 0.802 WHIP ain't hay. He's also had multiple arm surgeries, is  on the wrong side of 30, and carried a steep price, both in salary (three years, $35 million is the reported figure, although some of that, perhaps a majority of it, could be player options) and in the opportunity cost of the lost draft pick.

Soirano is going to get big-time closer money to pitch the eighth inning, and even for big-time closers, that's marketplace silliness. I've reckoned the Tigers, Dodgers and White Sox overspent on set-up men this winter already, but Soriano will essentially make what Joaquin Benoit, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain are to pull in combined.

Relief pitching isn't sufficiently difficult to find/create to justify that kind of spending.


  1. Yeah - why draft when you can buy? And - they are paying 'closer' money...something up with Riviera they aren't disclosing? Another result is that it makes the division rival Rays go closer hunting.

  2. Twins resign Thome....

  3. The Rays weren't going to re-sign Soriano; they were going to be using somebody else regardless, so this doesn't make them do anything they weren't planning on already.

    Rivera signed a two-year deal earlier this winter without the Jeter drama. I wouldn't read anything into this about Rivera. About Joba Chamberlain, perhaps.