MLB: Rafael Soriano Signs with Yankees, Joba Chamberlain Awaits Trade

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When we last touched on the Yankees pitching situation we spoke about the fact that because of their desperate need to secure a quality pitching staff and compete with the Boston Red Sox in the up coming 2011 season, lefthander Andy Pettitte had the Yankees over a barrel and could seemingly name his own price if he wanted to return. The Yankees are leaving no stone unturned searching for help in both in the rotation and in the pen as this week the Yankees looked into trading for often injured Justin Duchscher prompting the question that’s even more on everyone’s minds today; where does all of this leave Joba Chamberlain and does he have one foot out the door?

The reason the Joba question is front and center is that clearly Rafael Soriano at $35 million for three years is being brought in to set-up for Mariano Rivera. As 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 pitching in the toughest division in MLB, there’s no question as to his role. Just as important, Mariano isn’t exactly a spring chicken and there is no coincidence that Soriano’s contract of three years is one year longer than Mariano’s new deal of two years.

When you consider the fact that at $11.5 million per year, Soriano will be making more as a set-up guy than most teams closers, if you are not a Yankee fan this signing becomes an insulting magnification of the Yankees buying power relative to other franchises.

For all the shit the guy gets, you have to admit that Scott Boras does a pretty good job of stuffing the bank accounts of his clients. A closer look at the deal reveals that the contract includes opt-out clauses after 2011 and 2012. It’s hard to believe that a set-up guy making that much money would want out but if he gets the feeling that Mariano will never retire and that he will never close, perhaps he might want to go somewhere and close. Also, it’s not like there haven’t been highly paid pitchers that just couldn’t hack it in NY, that’s happened quite a few times over the years and one only need to look at Javier Vasquez last year for a prime example. Heck, they didn’t even put the guy on the playoff roster.

The Yankees have committed about $190 million this year for just 13 players, which doesn't even count the likes of Pettitte, if he comes back and (you know he won’t get less than the $11.75 million he made last year) and you can be sure that players like Bone Logan, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain won’t be taking pay cuts either.

I don’t know why we believe anything anyone says anymore. There appears to always be exceptions to rules and no one even cares about inserting their foot in their mouth. Remember last week when Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, stated,

“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.”

Well he lied, or found a reason to make an exception so as not to call it lying as the Yankees will have to surrender their top pick to the Rays for signing Soriano away from them as he was a Type “A” Free Agent.

While the Rays have apparently thrown in the towel on the 2011 season no one can say that they aren’t attempting to compete long term as once someone signs Grant Balfour, and they will (Hello Mets! Spend some money!), the Rays will have added 10 top draft picks as compensation for losing the likes of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jayson Bartlett, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour.

So what about Joba Chamberlain? The Yankees clearly still need help in their starting rotation. It’s seems like just yesterday where Yankees fans were all a buzz about the prodigy. Will they give him another opportunity to start? Has he been shoved all the way down to 5th-6th inning duty? If he isn’t going to start, don’t be surprised if he’s traded. One has to believe that based on his low salary, his age and potential that the Yankees would be able to ad a pretty decent piece to their 2011 puzzle.

The headline reads, “Yanks sign Soriano”, it should read “What now for Joba?” - Paul Leume

PaulLeumeHeadShotPaul is a MLB columnist from Montreal, Canada. Paul, a one-time beat writer covering the Montreal Expos for the Montreal Gazette is a proud grandfather of 3 girls and now spends his time offering his thoughts and prospective on Major League Baseball on a variety of blogs and websites throughout Al Gore's internet.

You may email Paul at [email protected]

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