I want to make one thing clear, I have nothing against Soriano. I like him as a player, and think he is an incredible reliever. He may even be a good closer candidate if and when Mariano decides to retire. My issue is with the Yankees strategy, and Soriano's contract. I do not fault Soriano for signing that deal. He is a closer, and he should not be expected to take less than closer money. I do not blame Boras because his job is to get the most money and the most flexible contract he can for his client, which he acheived. My issue is with the Yankees, who offered this deal. Here are my main concerns:
1. Its just too much money for a reliever. I understand he's a closer who is pitching the 8th for us, but there were 8th inning relievers available. Grant Balfour signed a 2 year $7.9 million contract with the A's. There was a third year option that would bring the deal up to $12.4 million if exercised. Balfour had a 2.28 ERA last season. For comparison's sake Soriano's 3rd year alone will earn him $14 million. In other words Soriano will earn $1.6 million more in one year, than Balfour will make in 3. And Balfour's been a very effective reliever.
2. Giving up the prospects. Sure, both Soriano and Balfour are type A free agents, and would lose us the picks. My contention is that we shouldn't have signed a type A free agent reliever to begin with, but if we had to, it would be better to sign the less expensive player. Tyler Kepner made a good point that between 1977 - 2006, only 12 prospects picked 31st overall (the spot the Yankees would have drafted in) have made it to the majors. But honestly this is flawed. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were all first or supplementary round draft picks. Phil Hughes is proving to be an effective starter, Chamerlain despite being up and down in his career still has some real value, and Kennedy helped land us Granderson. Even the prospects that don't make it to the majors, end up having value in the trade markets. Losing our first round draft pick is short sighted.
3. It doesn't address any real Yankee need. The Yankees need starters. A one-inning pitcher, no matter how good he is, can not account for the fact that 3 out of our 5 starters are questionable. 8th inning relievers only have value when you can hand them a lead. How often do you see Burnett, Mitre and Nova handing over a lead after 7 innings?
4. Lastly, a lot of people really like this deal, and have tried to defend it. I'm talking about Yankee fans. The best arguments I've heard for this deal are really weak. I'll admit that the fact it gives us something to talk about has some value, but not in a 2011 world championship kind of way. Signing Carl Pavano would give us a lot to talk about. But the best arguments I've heard in favor of the deal are as follows:
-Who cares about the prospects, they rarely make it!
-Its not our money, why should we care?
-We've shortened the games to 7 innings!
-Its a great insurance policy if Mariano gets injured.
The first two aren't arguments for it. They're responses to concerns that have been brought up against it. The 3rd one makes sense, but is rendered useless if we can't regularly carry a lead into the 8th. Its also ineffecient because we could have done this for much cheaper (ie. Balfour). The 4th one sounds like a good point, only that if we ever need to use Soriano to close, it negates the 3rd point, and honestly as an insurance policy its too expensive (Soriano's contract is more expensive than Mariano's). We can look for a closer when we need one. We're clearly not concerned with over spending.
Lastly, if you're a Yankee fan who likes this deal, you are in agreement with every Red Sox fan I've talked to. This could mean nothing, but the truth is, this deal makes us better, but only marginally. Living in Red Sox territory allows me to get a pulse for these things, and I've yet to find a Sox fan, even among the doomsday element, who think this deal is a problem for them. When you're rival shrugs at your best off season move, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Just how we all did when the Red Sox signed Lackey.