hot stove

Brian Cashman Changes His Mind, Agrees to Deal With Rafael Soriano

“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.”

That’s Brian Cashman, speaking just a week ago about how he wouldn’t sign a type-A free agent with Cliff Lee off the market, since doing so would cost the Yankees a draft pick. And now comes word that the Yankees have reached an agreement with Rafael Soriano, a type-A free agent, thereby giving said draft pick to the Rays.

It’s an unusual contract, too — a three-year deal that gives Soriano the option to leave after each of the first two years. The details, via the Post:

Soriano, 31, agreed to a creative contract that can be worth as much as $35 million over three years, pending a physical, according to two sources familiar with the deal.

It calls for Soriano to make $10 million this season, $11 million in 2012 and $14 million in 2013. The final two years are player options, allowing Soriano to leave the Yankees after the first or second season if he chooses. The Yankees would buy him out for $1.5 million in such an instance.

Soriano led the American League with 45 saves last year, and he’d close on many teams. So using him as a setup man to Mariano Rivera gives the Yankees a strong back-end of the bullpen. And assuming he sticks around for all three years, Soriano could potentially become the successor to Mariano Rivera. Still, that’s an awful lot of money for someone who will serve for at least two seasons as a setup man. And the bigger concern may be Soriano’s injury history: He missed much of the 2004, 2005, and 2008 campaigns with injuries, and he’s never stayed healthy for more than three consecutive seasons. (Perhaps, as FanGraphs suggests, the Yankees consider his 138 innings pitched over the last two years seasons as “a harbinger of good health in Soriano’s future.”)

Brian Cashman has had, to this point, a pretty dreadful off-season: Not only did he miss out on Cliff Lee (doing so without, as best we can tell, a real plan B), he watched the Red Sox get better. This move, we guess, is his way of doing something — of improving some aspect of the team, money be damned, even if doesn’t address their most pressing concern, and even if it carries significant risk.

And now, let the calls for Joba Chamberlain to move back into the rotation begin.

Update: Buster Olney tweets that even the Yankees’ front office was split on Soriano, and that it’s more of an “ownership-driven deal” than a baseball-operations one.

Brian Cashman Changes His Mind, Agrees to Deal With Rafael Soriano