Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reflections of the Soriano Deal

The Yankees' surprise contract offer to Rafael Soriano has many heads being scratched. Most pundits have panned the deal while another has said it saved the Yankees' off season. While the latter is probably a stretch, the deal does give the Yankees options while also giving them quite a bit of risk.

Forget the fact that for many Yankee fans, the combination of the words, "Yankees and Soriano," bring back some bad memories of a certain second baseman who had a penchant for swinging at sliders outside the zone in key situations. This is a different Soriano; a big strapping, hard throwing, fearless dude who piled up 45 saves last year while posting Mo-like WHIP and ERA figures. The Yankees can throw zeroes at you from the sixth inning on with an array of darting arms from both sides of the plate. That part is good, especially when you have worries about half of your rotation getting you to the sixth inning. Perhaps the move will even allow the Yankees to reconsider Joba Chamberlain as a starter. That would be a positive thing in this writer's mind.

But what is troubling is the whispers from Buster Olney and others that this was an owner driven, non-baseball decision over the head of Brian Cashman. Cashman just a few days earlier had said the Yankees wouldn't trade their draft pick for any of the pitchers on the market. Either Cashman changed his mind (unlikely) or he was overruled. If he was overruled, then once again, his plan to develop the Yankees' system to allow talent to build up to the parent club has taken another hit. You have to wonder if Cashman's power base has eroded as a result of the Yankees' failure to land Cliff Lee, a non-sign that this writer still thinks was fortuitous.

The most troubling thing about this signing is that it appears the Yankees' hierarchy pushed the panic button during an off season when the Red Sox have (on paper) become monolithic. It seems again fueled by the over-arching need to win every year or else. Sure, there are high stakes for the Yankees. Their YES Network needs a winning team to stay as lucrative as it is. But the crazy desire to stay on top every year gets a little out of control some times. It was George Steinbrenner's biggest weakness as well as his biggest strength. The bottom line though is that MLB and New York will survive if the Yankees don't win the World Series every year. Just as long as they win one once in a while.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the Yankees' front office. It will be viewed as important if Cashman shows up at Soriano's unveiling. It will be interesting to hear his first words after this event. From an outside perspective, he must be really mad and why wouldn't he be? As the Yankees general manager, he is supposed to be in charge of a plan that will make the Yankees viable for years to come. If his plan keeps getting undercut, then what future is there for him with the Yankees?

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