Yesterday, we learned that Joakim Soria would be interested in filling a set-up role in the Yankees bullpen, if Brian Cashman and co. called. Soria is an interesting free agent candidate, with Rafael Soriano all but gone at this point.
Personally, I’m not a proponent of building a bullpen through free agency. Relievers get paid far too much on the open market, and it’s simply much more efficient to develop them in house (see: David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain in recent years). Soria, however, may be a case the Yankees should consider. The biggest drawback (and it’s a big one) is that Soria missed all of 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery, and will likely not be on a big league mound until May.
From 2007-2011, Soria was one of the best closers in all of baseball, posting a 2.40 ERA, 2.74 SIERA, and 2.90 FIP. He was a strikeout machine (9.74 K/9), with solid control (2.48 BB/9), and balls in play are primarily grounders (1.08 GB/FB, 0.68 HR/9). He also converted 160 saves in 180 chances (88.8%) as opponents hit just .205 against him.
So at the right price, Soria could be a low risk high reward buy this winter for the Yankees. In addition, he could become the heir to Mariano Rivera (Soria will be 29 in May).
As for contract details and structure, I would propose a deal with a base salary of $4-5 million in 2013, with incentives that could bring the total a few million higher. From there, perhaps a vesting option for 2014 worth upwards of $10 million (provided he stays healthy, meets performance standards). With Rivera likely retiring after 2013, his $10-15 million will come off the books and Soria could clock in at a bit of a cheaper rate. Plus, there’s some money freed up for 2013 with Soriano opting out of his deal.
Ultimately, I like Soria, but I doubt any deal with the Yankees comes to fruition. Although he’s open to a set-up role, I anticipate some team finding him as a cheaper closer option, which will probably be more attractive to him.