Soriano's opt-out means the Yankees will owe him a $1.5 million buyout for the $14 million he was due to receive next season, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger. The next move for the Yankees will be to offer Soriano a qualifying offer for next season of $13.3 million, which will ensure New York receives draft-pick compensation if Soriano signs elsewhere.
It is expected Soriano will turn down that qualifying offer and opt instead for free agency. That didn't work out entirely as Soriano hoped in the 2010-11 offseason. Soriano led the American League with 45 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, his only season with Tampa Bay after being traded by the Atlanta Braves the previous winter.
Soriano went into free agency having hired super-agent Scott Boras and looking for a lucrative four-year deal to close somewhere. But despite Boras' attempts to create a demand for a closer that really didn't exist, Soriano instead settled for a three-year, $35 million contract to work as a setup man for Rivera.
Soriano will be 33 in December and is said to once again be after a four-year deal to close. He filled in admirably for Rivera after the future Hall of Famer went down with a freak knee injury during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3.
Teams are more reluctant than ever, however, to overpay a closer. Plus, the market is flooded with quality closers this offseason.
Fernando Rodney heads the list of available closers this offseason. Rodney put together one of the greatest seasons ever recorded by a closer in 2012, saving 48 games and recording a 0.60 ERA for the Rays.
Jose Valverde won't be back with the Detroit Tigers after a dicey postseason, but he did save 35 games for the American League champions. Jonathan Broxton saved 23 games for the Kansas City Royals before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for the stretch run to set up for Aroldis Chapman.
There are also some former closers who will be looking to come back from injuries that cost them all of 2012. Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) of the Miami Marlins, Ryan Madson of the Cincinnati Reds and Joakim Soria of the Royals are all free agents this offseason.
So there are plenty of available options for the Yankees should they decide not to pursue a new long-term deal with Soriano.
It's also worth pointing out that while Soriano is taking a risk by walking away from $14 million for 2013, the Yankees would also be rolling the dice a bit should they opt to make a qualifying offer.
There is a chance Soriano would evaluate the market and opt to take the one-year offer. If that happens and Rivera decides to come back, that would put the Yankees in the position of turning a $14 million setup man into one making almost $15 million, at a minimum.
Free agency is due to begin Saturday, Nov. 3. With the closer role in doubt for the first time in nearly two decades, it will be an interesting time for the Yankees.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor for several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is a longtime New York Yankee fan.
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