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David Brown

Yankees sign Rafael Soriano to be $35 million set-up man

David Brown
Big League Stew

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The New York Yankees signed right-handed free agent Rafael Soriano(notes) to a $35 million, three-year contract Thursday.

One of the top relievers in the majors the past two seasons who led the league in saves for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, Soriano will be a set-up man for Mariano Rivera(notes).

A set-up man!

For you outraged folks scoring contracts at home, the Yankees will pay a middle reliever $11.5 million this season.

A middle reliever!

The deal, first reported by Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman and negotiated by superagent Scott Boras, includes opt-out clauses after 2011 and 2012 for Soriano. Lord knows why he'd want to opt out, though, at these prices.

Thirty-five million bucks!

Soriano could be the Yankees closer by the third year of the deal, if Rivera retires after 2012. At $15 million per annum, Rivera is the league's highest-paid reliever.

Oh, this also gives the damn Yankees nine guys earning at least $10 million a season.

Nine guys!

That doesn't include left-hander Andy Pettitte(notes), who figures to make no less than the $11.75 million he did in 2010 if he comes back for another season.

It also doesn't include relative bargains Nick Swisher(notes) ($9.1 million) and Curtis Granderson(notes) ($8.25 million). Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be outfielders. Middle relief is where it's at.

At least it is for general manager Brian Cashman, who just last week said the team wouldn't be surrendering its 2011 first-round pick (31st overall) for any free agents other than Cliff Lee(notes).

Well, the Yanks lost out on Cliff, of course. But they'll surrender their top pick to the Rays for Soriano. What changed their collective mind? Cashman must have remembered that the Yankees don't play in the same yard as everyone else.

The Rays to their credit have been doing a fine job of collecting compensation for lost free agents this offseason; They will have added 10 draft picks once someone else signs Grant Balfour(notes). Thanks to first-round and "sandwich" picks, they have nine picks in the draft before the second round even starts. Yay, future!

But what about the now? The Yankees have committed about $190 million for 13 players, which doesn't even count the likes of Pettitte, Phil Hughes(notes), Boone Logan(notes), Brett Gardner(notes) or Joba Chamberlain(notes).

Ah, yes, Joba. When does he pitch now? The sixth inning, twice a week? Or does he go back to the rotation? It depends on what Pettitte does.

The back of Bronx bullpen is, obviously, about as strong as one could make it. Not having a reliable bridge to Rivera for the entire 2010 season probably cost the Yankees the AL East title. Now they're lights-out in the eighth and ninth.

At least they better be, for that money.

Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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