- Last Updated: 6:01 PM, November 1, 2012
- Posted: 2:07 AM, November 1, 2012
Now that Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees appear stuck with each other, it’s time to welcome the next great pinstriped drama of the offseason.
This one features Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, and it most resembles a Mexican standoff. Or that “Family Ties” episode when Alex has two dates for the prom.
The Yankees could wind up empty-handed, stuck with David Robertson and two fistfuls of dollars. Or they could walk away with an abundance of bullpen riches.
This saga kicked off yesterday when Soriano, fresh off his fantastic 2012 filling in for the injured Rivera, opted out of the final season of his contract, a slam-dunk decision.
That put both Rivera and Soriano on the open market and left the Yankees with some icy terrain to navigate over the next month or so.
Of course, the Yankees never have shied away from an adventure. Upon Soriano’s filing, team president Randy Levine said Scott Boras, Soriano’s agent, had shared with Levine his confidence that he can get Soriano four years and $60 million from another club.
The Yankees aren’t interested in extending Soriano more than two years, and they would be thrilled if Boras surveyed the scene over the next nine days and determined his best play would be accepting the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $13.3 for 2013 (to be extended tomorrow) on Nov. 9.
That resolution would give the Yankees considerable leverage against Rivera, who sits on the sidelines, purportedly unsure whether he wants to play again after missing most of 2012 with a right knee injury. Any skeptic would wonder whether Rivera’s reticence actually concerns his 2013 salary. Would the proud Rivera accept a pay cut, perhaps with incentives built in to climb to his standard $15 million assuming good health? Would the tradition-minded Yankees get their hands dirty as they did with Derek Jeter two years ago?
To answer the second question first, of course they would. There’s not the personal animus with Rivera that existed with Jeter during that 2010-2011 offseason, but you can make the intellectual argument that a 43-year-old pitcher coming off a serious injury, no matter his legend, should be willing to prove his health in return for $15 million. We know from the Jeter experience that most fans side with the team in these instances.
Would Rivera give in financially, as did Jeter? Let’s put it this way: He vowed to return in 2013 the day after he suffered his injury, and he worked tirelessly on his rehabilitation. Would he throw all of that away just for a few million bucks?
Rivera can try to wait out Soriano and hope he signs elsewhere, Soriano could wait out Rivera and hope he calls a retirement news conference and the Yankees will wait out both, with general manager Brian Cashman well-versed in this game. We can hear him now: “I’ve got Robertson, David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada. That’ll do.”
Shoot, if you were a bona fide cynic, you would argue the Yankees would be best off cutting bait with both Rivera and Soriano. You would contend the Yankees-Soriano marriage, coming off such a peak, can only get worse, and that while Rivera is a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate, who’s to say he won’t suffer another freak injury next year?
The best guess now, with the standoff just beginning — with guys just starting to invite gals to the prom — is Rivera returns for about $13 million plus incentives and Soriano finds a team willing to give him three years and $38 million. The most logical such club would be the Tigers, who need a closer now that Jose Valverde is a free agent and whose owner Mike Ilitch has an excellent relationship with Boras (see: Prince Fielder, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez).
Cashman, Levine and Hal Steinbrenner have other holes to fill, with Hiroki Kuroda, Russell Martin and Nick Swisher all representing significant positions and decisions.
None figure to be as colorful and tense, however, as the closer triangle. Enjoy the show.Follow @NYPostsports