For weeks now, the Yankees have downplayed their interest in Rafael Soriano. Character issues, they said. Immature. Had run-ins with Joe Maddon in Tampa and Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Despite his indisputable wealth of talent, Soriano has been on three teams in nine years and left a trail of disgruntled ex-teammates in his wake. Not worth the risk, not at the price he and his agent, Scott Boras, were asking.
And now, suddenly, Soriano is about to become a Yankee.
According to the source, who insisted upon anonymity because he is not authorized to speak until Soriano passes his physical and the deal is official, [Mariano Rivera] played no small role in that.
In fact, it appears that he played a huge role. “Mariano knows this kid very well,” the source said. “All those issues the Yankees were concerned with came up in the negotiations, but Mariano spoke to Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner and convinced [them] that he had matured and was worth getting. He told them he would look after the kid as a Yankee, bring him along so that in two years, he’ll be ready to close for them.”
This is a really interesting story. Hopefully it works out well for the Yankees that under Mo’s tutelage Soriano becomes a positive influence in the clubhouse. Maybe he can even teach him a cutter too. Just keep in mind not to expect miracles. If Mariano could just teach anybody his cutter he would have taught plenty of the Yankees pitchers over the past 15 years or so.
It’s also not going to keep him from using his opt-out clauses to the best of his advantage. Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras. That means that if Soriano thinks he can opt out at the end of the first or second year and get more money he will. Even if, possibly especially if, it hurts the Yankees. And if he’s hurt and can’t fulfill his contract on the mound, he’ll gladly collect the full $35 million.
So while this is definitely a cool story and might be a great thing for both the Yankees and Soriano, it doesn’t really change a whole lot.
It is interesting to think though that Rivera might have more pull within this organization than Brian Cashman himself. Cashman wanted no part of Soriano, but at the insistence of Rivera the Yankees went out and signed Soriano.