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Is the Soriano deal a sign of chaos in the Yankees organization?

Jan 14, 2011, 4:29 PM EDT

Brian Cashman

The Rafael Soriano deal was a shocker. Mostly because until very recently Brian Cashman was telling anyone who would listen that the Yankees were done with their days of giving multi-year deals to non-Mariano Rivera class relievers and that they were not going to give up the draft pick required to get Soriano because doing so directly benefits a division rival.

As a result of this. the big question as the deal went down last night was whether this was merely a change of course by Cashman or if he was overruled by his superiors.

Based on the reporting we’re seeing today, it was clearly the latter. Scott Boras got into the heads of Randy Levine or a random Steinbrenner and Cashman’s philosophy was set aside, at least in this instance.  Troubling? William J. over at TYU thinks so:

If true, that could be disastrous for the Yankees. Whether you like Cashman or not, the Yankees have seemed to benefit from having one coherent voice on baseball-related matters, so a return to the days of front office factions could have undesirable consequences.

I’m not so sure. Mostly because I don’t think any of us truly know how much input guys like Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner already have on personnel matters.  We have assumed that Cashman has been calling all of the shots in the past few years, but do we know that for sure? Each year the Yankees have a big organizational meeting right after the season ends. Who are we to say that Cashman’s priorities rule coming out of those meetings?

To be fair, as William J. notes, in this case the fact that there were reports of this being a front office move so quickly after it happened suggests that someone — maybe Cashman — was angry and was spreading the word that he was overruled.  But if others have serious input in setting the agenda in October, and if that agenda has been successful in recent years, who are we to say that they can’t change their minds about things in mid-stream?  It may be uncommon in recent years and it may be bad for office politics, but the point is that the right moves be made at the right time, isn’t it?

The Soriano signing is not a great move as we tend to understand them. It’s expensive. It’s very player-friendly.* But it is a move that makes the Yankees better in 2012.  And after a winter in which most of the Yankees’ original  objectives have not been met, any move that improves the team without sacrificing good prospects has to be considered a positive, does it not? The Yankees can afford to throw away some money. But they can’t afford to fall too far behind the Red Sox in the talent acquisition game.

Maybe Cashman was undermined. Maybe he wasn’t.  But I don’t think one transaction can tell us that for sure.  And even this was a case of Cashman being undermined, it may end up being  a situation in which it was a good thing for the sake of the team on the field.

*The most player-friendly aspect of this thing is that if Soriano performs well in 2011 and 2012, and if Mariano Rivera, as expected, retires after 2012, it’s a dead certainty that Soriano will use his opt-out provision to maximize his leverage against a desperate Yankees team.  One can never know what happens in negotiations, but I wonder if anyone tried to give Soriano an opt-out after 2011, but making it so that if he didn’t opt-out, 2013 became a team option.  Just spit-ballin’.

  1. uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. All I can tell you is as a biased Yankee fan I like the signing. If the dollars and the length don’t concern the Yankee Management why are the so called “experts” bothered by it?
    I wonder what those same “experts” said when the Rangers brass when to visit Lee without Ryan. They took they billionaire backer instead. Were they undermining Ryan? Is there front office in chaos?

    • pisano - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:58 PM

      uyf1950….. Don’t you find it amusing that no one has said much about the ass whipping the Red Sox took or gave themselves with the Carl Crawford deal and everyone is dumping on the Yankees deal. It’s a good move plus it opens the door for some trades. As long as someone other than the Yankees gets the player it’s a good deal . This is sour grapes at it’s best. I can’t wait to see Crawford in seven years, and I ‘ll bet he won’t be with Boston.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:00 PM

        Exactly. But I guess the price the Yankees pay for being the Yankees and the price we pay for being Yankee fans.

      • Glenn - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:29 PM

        It must be a horrible burden to have the highest payroll every year. How can the Yankees and their fans stand it. The Pittsburgh and San Diego fans should light candles for you all. The horror, the horror!

      • ditto65 - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:53 PM

        I know, Glenn. Those darn rules that restrict the amount of money that the Pirates and the Padres can spend – it’s sooooo unfair. Wait – I am mistaken – no rules exist. They can refuse to spend money and still MAKE MONEY. THEY CHOOSE NOT TO, yet the Spankees are at fault. Such a tired argument…

      • Glenn - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:11 PM

        I’m not the one crying about the fact that the Yankees make a ridiculous amount of money and spend it. The Pirates and Padres could spend Yankee money, but they would go bankrupt. I root for a rich team, too. I just don’t cry about it.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2011 at 7:48 AM

        To Glenn & Ditto65 – Being a Yankee fan is both a blessing and a curse.
        The blessing is we get to root for the greatest professional sports team in history. A team that doesn’t have in it’s vocabulary “wait till next year”
        The burden is we have to put up with all the fans of other “less fortunate” teams, as well as all the anti Yankee bias in the media.
        But it’s a small price to pay.

    • westtribetobe - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:10 PM

      This is an intelligent move for Cashman and the Yanks. Soriano is an A+ reliever and frankly, even the Redsox, Phillies, Rangers etc. are going to have to do their scoring in innings 1-7 because Soriano/Mariano combo is the best in any bullpen in baseball. As far as the business side goes, even if Soriano isn’t a sub 2 ERA type pitcher next year (which he has the potential to be), he’s still an elite reliever. The Phillies have the super staff, the Redsox have the super lineup (although I’d rather have teixeira and Arod as my 3-4 combo instead of crawford-gonzalez), and now the Yanks have a superbullpen consisting of 2 of the best closers in the game (one in the history of baseball), a young and talented Robertson, Pedro Feliciano, and even people like Logan and Marte who have been proven to be dominant as well. I also think now that the Yankees are the underdogs players like Jeter, Arod, Burnett, and even Posada are going to have huge years and we’re going to surprise everyone and win the world series! Yes Cliff, Doc, Oswalt, Hamels is filthy. But is Lester, Buccholz, Becket, and Lackey really that much better than CC, Hughes, Burnett, and whatever ace the Yanks trade for half way through the season!?

      • kempbutler - Jan 15, 2011 at 12:53 AM

        Of the 3 that you mentioned(lineup,starting rotation,bullpen) bullpen is by far the least important and yes lester,bucholz,becket, and lackey are far more reliable than CC,Hughes, and Burnett. I would even say I would rather have John Lackey(the sox 4th starter) than the yankees 3rd starter in Burnett. The yanks lineup does not look to be nearly as potent as the red sox. Position by position the Sox are much superior. And Jeter is not going to have a huge year, he is on the decline and if he could not perform in this year his contract year(although he still got paid an absurd amount of money) then what makes you think he will do it this year!? In the end Sox>Yankees in lineup and starting rotation and an edge to the yankees in the pen(with all respect to josh bard) The move the yankees should make is call up Adjorn Rodiv to be their fifth starter, but he is relatively unknown and probably wont get the spot.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2011 at 6:40 AM

        To kempbutler – I both agree and disagree with your assessment of the 2 teams pitching rotations. You are correct that when healthy the 3 Boston pitchers (Lester, Buchholz & Lackey) do present more of a problem for opposing teams then (CC, Hughes & AJ). The operative words in that statement are “when healthy” and neither Buchholz or Lackey have been healthy for a full season. Buchholz in the last 3 seasons and Lackey in 2 of the last 3 seasons. I won’t even mention the trips to the DL for Beckett and Dice K. So where I disagree with you on the 3 is I do NOT believe as a group Lester, Buchholz & Lackey are more RELIABLE then the 3 Yankee pitchers at least they have not proven to be so far. To address your comment about bullpens. I tend to believe that while the bullpen is not as important as the starters it can hurt a team dramatically. You need look no further then both the Red Sox and Yankees teams last year. And as far as bullpen improvements there is no doubt with the Yankees recent signing of Soriano their bullpen surpasses the Sox pen. So in my opinion if you take the pitching staff as a whole rather than individual pieces the Yankee pitching staff (starters & pen) is not that much weaker then the Sox and may not be weaker at all when you consider the Sox pitchers health issues. Now lets consider the position players position by position let’s start with:
        Catcher: No doubt in my mind the Yankees have a huge advantage here.
        1st base: While Gonzalez is younger and will probably hit for a higher average I doubt he will hit any more HR’s or drive in any more runs than Tex. As for defense while I know everyone says how good Gonzalez’s defense I would put Tex’s defense up against anyone in either league. But I’ll give you Gonzalez may have a slight overall advantage, but very slight.
        2nd base: While Pedroia’s good, Cano is a best. Advantage Cano
        SS: I consider this position a wash. But I will give the intangibles like leadership to Jeter. So as in the case of 1st base I give a slight very slight advantage to the Yankees Jeter.
        3rd base: This is the toughest one of all. While obviously Youk has age on his side and has a better average over the past couple of years it’s hard for me to ignore ARod’s history as an offensive machine even at 35 years old. Consistently a 30+ HR hitter and well over a 100 RBI player year in and year out. But trying to be as objective as I can I will give that very slight advantage to Youk primarily because of his age.
        RF: This is an easy one for me at least Hands down it’s Swisher and the Yankees that get the advantage here over Drew.
        CF: I’m going to have to go with Granderson at this point until Ellsbury can prove he’s healthy and can stay healthy for the season and can be consistent. There is a reason his name always comes up in Boston when they are looking to improve. I don’t believe they are convinced he’s the go to guy for them.
        LF: This is a no brainer of course it Crawford.
        But, I think as you can see when you look at it position by position rather then making blanket statements. The two teams offenses are closer much closer then you think. At least that’s my opinion.
        I do NOT think the Red Sox will run away with the division. Are they the favorites at this point? They have to be. I think the race will probably go down to the last 2 weeks of the regular season. If the Yankees are able to trade or find a “solid” #2 or #3 pitcher by the trade deadline or if Andy comes back by then. In my opinion all bets are off as far as the Red Sox being considered the favorite, then it becomes a horse race.

      • marshmallowsnake - Jan 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM

        Last time I checked, there were no relievers in baseball that have pitched 162 games…so nice try.

    • Old Gator - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:42 PM

      I like it too. It does a bunch of important things for the Borg, with the basic fact that they got themselves a damned good pitcher as the given: (1) when your immortal reliever is into his 40s I don’t care how remarkable he has been; he’s not going to hold up physically forever and if he blows a gasket this season you’ve got a young(er) stud who can step right up; (2) it gives the Borg some maneuvering room for unloading the FAT TOAD (on the assumption that they won’t forklift him into the starting rotation no-how), and (3) even if the FAT TOAD stays, it makes it less likely that they’ll have to depend on him in critical seventh or eighth inning situations. Looks all upside to me.

  2. Utley's Hair - Jan 14, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    Is this the new logo for the Wankers?

    • fribnit - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:08 PM

      try to grow up. I know you can if you try

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 15, 2011 at 1:09 AM

        How about you lighten up, Francis? I know you can if you try.

        It’s a joke. Get over it. I’m not the only one who makes them.

    • Old Gator - Jan 14, 2011 at 11:49 PM

      No, don’t try to grow up. First of all, there’s no point. You take your whole life to grow up, then wind up drooling your way through your second childhood while your ventircles fill up with your former brain. Second, it’s no fun. And third, your coronary arteries are clogging up with plaque from horrible horsemeat and velveeta sandwiches. Grow up, and you begin eating high fiber cardboard cereals and salads.

      Is that what you want?

      I didn’t think so.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 15, 2011 at 1:13 AM

        Mmmm…cheesesteak…

        If I “grew up,” I’d probably have less fun with my kid, so, I probably won’t. Though the drooling part does sound enticing…

  3. yankeesfanlen - Jan 14, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Didn’t I do a skit on a weekend post last week? Something about Hank coming in announcing a signing after Hal gave Brian hell for spending too much? You can look it up (apologies, Ring Lardner).
    At least some semblance of Steinbrenner-ness remains.
    Ufy, I love you and your thoughtful analysis. I don’t know why you want to be their CPA.
    I don’t care how much the Universe spends. I like the team (understatement mine) and want to do everything possible to field the best.
    And ufy, you do too.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      I enjoy doing spreadsheets and that kind of stuff. Your right I really don’t care about how much they or quite frankly any team spends. I just want the best possible team on the field as the Yankees can put together. I just get tired sometimes of these posters who complain about the Yankees spending when they say absolutely nothing the teams who’s payroll’s would embarrass a little league team.

  4. nyyankeefanforever - Jan 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    I haven’t seen a single solid piece of “reporting” that says Cashman was overruled to make this deal. Just a lot of reporters spitballing to cover the fact they so entirely missed this important signing on the horizon. Every free agent available has been tagged by MLB reporters as persons of interest this offseason and ever single time Cashman has consistently said the Yankees are leaving no stone unturned and were looking at everybody. I think his “we won’t give up a draft pick for Soriano” line was a perfect truth aimed at throwing the stupid writing fraternity off the scent so they wouldn’t assist Scott Boras in public negotiating through them — much as I likewise believe his dinner with Carl Crawford the night Werth signed with the Nats was aimed at fooling the Red Sox into a ridiculously overpriced panic signing to appease that team’s disgruntled fan base. I mean seriously, who personally has dinner with a prospective signing target just to tell them they aren’t interested?!?!? Me thinkst Cashman and company are simply mastering how to manipulate the media and competing teams’ front offices to their own ends. Bravo Brian C! A great signing for Yankee Universe!! (…And just for the record, Cashman was telling actually the truth about that draft pick he wouldn’t give up. When Soriano does opt out, the Yankees will get two for the price of one. Silly gullible sportswriters! LMAO!)

  5. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    I tweeted this, very similar to your POSterisk:

    Let’s say Soriano excels thru Yr2. Is there any way he doesn’t opt out if Mo retires? Would have a ton of leverage to get a LT deal as heir.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:49 PM

      So he opts out after the 2nd year. Big deal. He would in all likelihood have the same problems in 2014 as he had this year and maybe even more so. Teams will still be reluctant to give up a draft choice for him (assuming that’s still in the CBA). Teams will still be reluctant to give extended contracts to closers/relievers for 8 figure salaries. Plus you never know who else might be available in the marketplace. For example: Soria will only have one more year on his contract with KC and that’s for just under $9M. KC might be willing to trade him at that point realizing they probably can’t afford him going forward. I’m sure there will be others as well. Like I said so what if he opts out.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:02 PM

        Sorry, I meant 2013 not 2014.

  6. uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    It seems to me for the better part of this baseball off season the media & so called “experts” have been a day late and a dollar short when it comes to reporting what’s happening with teams and free agents.
    1st – No one in the media came even close to reporting that Lee would sign with the Phillies.
    2nd – No one in the media came even close to reporting that Werth would sign with Nationals.
    3rd – Up until a day the Red Sox signed Crawford everyone was reporting the Angels were the team he was going to sign with.
    4th – Up until a couple of days before Beltre signed with the Rangers everyone was predicting he would sign with the Angels
    5th – Everyone of the so called experts was shocked when they learned what Benoit signed for.
    6th – Everyone was reporting the Sox/Padres trade for Gonzalez was off because they missed the negotiating window. Then a mere couple of hours later the deal was done.
    7th and lastly – The media was completely blindsided by the Yankee signing of Soriano

    Seems to me like the media and “experts” are good at reporting the news after the fact and not real good and digging into some of these deals and reporting accurately before the fact. In my opinion this latest case of Yankee and Cashman bashing is based on hearsay, rumors and innuendo by the media because they got caught with egg on their face with this deal.

    • spudchukar - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:48 PM

      1950 Dude. You want it both ways. Critical of rumor and heresay, on the one hand and then castigating “experts”, in the second for not bringing you breaking news as quickly as possible. Trust Me, they are trying. Responsibility includes vetting. Your complaints seem to hint at an existing measure of laziness. Certainly not as lax as your logic.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:27 PM

        I know you can read. I just don’t think you comprehend what you read. You are correct I am critical of rumor and hearsay when it’s disguised as based on fact or some inside knowledge. Read my last paragraph again. Anyone can report the news after the fact, these guys get paid to do their homework ask questions and separate fact from fiction, and yes report accurate, reliable information before it happens. If you call what many of them have done this off season trying then they need to try harder or get into another line of work.
        As for the personal attack on me you’ll forgive me if I tell you I don’t care what you think of me.

  7. thinman61 - Jan 15, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    OMG this is priceless. I mean, sure, it’s ESPN NY and all, but seriously? The Yankees should now be considered division favorites because they signed Soriano? How does this guy even have a job?

    *dies laughing*

    http://es.pn/dYKgsy

    • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      Thinman61 – Are you implying that a reporter in this case Wallace Matthews can’t be objective simply because of where he’s from or reporting from in his case NY?
      Because if that’s the case then I really have to be concerned about Peter Gammons articles and reports. With him being from New England and also working for NESN. The same NESN that the Red Sox ownership controls an 80% interest in.
      Who would have ever imagined the media showing a bias in their reporting. What has this world come to. Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley are probably turning over in their graves.

      • thinman61 - Jan 16, 2011 at 11:08 AM

        ESPN Boston’s response: http://es.pn/gWl3Vk

        This is just as much an opinion fluff piece as the Wallace Matthews original, and just as unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

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