Well, it has been a very quiet winter (off) season for the New York Yankees so far. But on this freezing cold Bronx day in the middle of January, the Yanks announced the completion of a major bridge-building project by signing the Tampa Bay Rays “All-Star” closer, Rafael Soriano, to a three-year, $35 million deal, to become the Yanks eight-inning, “Bridge-to-Mariano”, set-up man.
There are player options built into the contract that would allow Soriano to leave the Yanks after each season if he chooses. But if the “Great Mariano” does decide to retire after the 2012 season, Soriano would be the leading candidate to become the next Yankees closer in 2013, replacing the “unreplaceable” Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, and a certain “first-time ballot” Hall of Fame inductee sometime in the year 2018.
Soriano, 31, led the American League with 45 saves last season, allowing just 36 hits in 62.1 innings, with 57 strikeouts, and a 1.73 ERA. These are perfect numbers to solidify the eight inning relief workload for the Yanks, setting the stage for Mariano to close out victories in the ninth.
But with only 31 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Yankees have many question marks regarding their pitching staff.
The starting rotation is very uncertain at this time with only CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett slated to be in the rotation. Cliff Lee decided to sign with the Phillies, even though the Yanks did make a better offer for him to pitch in the Bronx. Javier Vasquez was not re-signed [a smart move by the Yanks]. And Andy Pettitte is leaning towards retirement.
So that leaves Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre as the “front-runners” to win the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. And I’m sure we will all see a full complement of a various random amount of “cast of characters” also battling it out for one of the starting spots.
Without Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte, though, the Yankees starting rotation looks very weak, at this point in time, only a month before spring training starts.
The closing end of the bullpen in the eight and ninth innings is set, and very solid.
This leaves the middle relievers, in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, to complete the bullpen and hold the score when they enter the games. Right now, these roles would be filled by: David Robertson; Boone Logan; Pedro Feliciano (with the Mets in 2010; signed for two-years); and, of course, Joba Chamberlain.
Ah, yes. Joba Chamberlain.
There are many pitching decisions that must be made by the Yankees braintrust during this upcoming spring training. And with the “weak” state of the starting rotation, in my view, the Yankees should give Joba every opportunity to start this year !
Let the great “Joba Debate” begin once again !!!
— Jimmy Curran, “BY&L” – Baseball, The Yankees, and Life …