The New York Yankees will be entering the 2013 season with a 43-year-old closer in Mariano Rivera, who is coming back from ACL surgery and without the man who saved 42 games – Rafael Soriano – to back him up. Soriano is now a member of the Washington Nationals bullpen after he opted out of the final year of his deal with the Yankees.
Did the Yankees make the right move in letting Soriano walk away without trying to bring him back? What if Rivera can’t stay healthy? Who do the Yankees turn to for closing games?
The answer isn’t as simple as it was last year, but it isn’t like they are without options. Last season the Yankees first turned to David Robertson to fill the void before he went on the disabled list and Soriano took over as closer. He would most likely be the first option should Rivera not be healthy. There is also David Aardsma, who had some closing experience with the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and 2010, before missing the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. He also missed most of last season, but should be healthy this year and be an integral member of the bullpen.
There is also Mariano himself. Rivera was one of the best all-around athletes on the Yankees before injuring his knee in Kansas City during warm-ups. There is no reason to think he won’t come back from his injury to regain his form as closer. Is that asking a lot from a 43-year-old? Perhaps, but if anyone on the team can come back from this type of injury, it is Rivera.
The Yankees might have let Soriano walk due to oncoming fiscal restraints, but they also knew they had the greatest closer of all-time coming back, and there has been no evidence that Rivera’s arm is slowing down. He was still pitching at a high level when he tore his ACL.
One also can’t forget about Joba Chamberlain in all of this either. He should be fully recovered from his own Tommy John surgery, and could be an option if needed.
The Yankees didn’t need Soriano. He was just an expensive back-up plan, and the Yankees are just as well off without as they are with him. Sure, the decision to let Soriano walk was primarily financial. However, with several in-house options to replace him, it won’t hurt as much without him. Besides, Soriano’s signing with the Nationals gives the Yankees three picks in the first 32 slots of the MLB Draft, which isn’t a bad consolation prize considering.