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Yankees Notes: Soriano Reaction, Chamberlain Starting

January 15, 2011

The New York Yankees have certainly had what could only be described as an interesting offseason. They missed out on their biggest target, been criticized by many for failing to making a major move, and arguably have done little to improve upon a team that reached the American League Championship Series in 2010 (they haven’t gotten any worse, I might add). But, for a fan base that expects to win each year there are still some questions that need to be answered before the 2011 season begins. Let’s take a look at some of the latest out of New York:

  • In the wake of the Yankees’ signing of Rafael Soriano (a deal I’m not particularly fond of, but more thoughts on that in a moment), Chad Jennings took a look through some of the multi-year contracts that the team has handed out to relievers over the past ten years. As Jennings puts it, some have worked out but many have not. In fact, taking a look at his list it would seem that a good number of these deals ended up with the Yankees trading away the reliever before the end of the contract.
  • Jennings ends the piece with an examination of the team’s track record with first round draft picks in an effort to justify the fact that they will surrender their 2011 first round pick with the Soriano signing. Of the team’s last 15 selections in the first round, only two are active Major Leaguers – Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Losing the draft pick isn’t necessarily the big deal that some feel it is, despite the fact that this year’s draft is looking to be one of the deepest in history according to most experts. The Yankees will use their financial might to take players who may fall in the draft due to signability concerns and that will make up for the lack of a first round selection. The part that irks me about the situation is simply the fact that the pick goes to Tampa Bay, who has shown a great ability to draft and develop players over the past few years. However, as Jennings shows, nothing is certain when it comes to draft picks turning into viable Major Leaguers.
  • The decision to sign Soriano appears to have been driven more by ownership than by GM Brian Cashman, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney who passed along this post from the NY Daily News. According to the report, Cashman was highly prepared to stick with his homegrown arms in the team’s efforts to build a solid bullpen ahead of Mariano Rivera – specifically using Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson in such a role. Both pitchers have had varied degrees of success in their young careers but have not yet lived up to expectations, especially Chamberlain. However, it became clear that Hank and Hal Steinbrenner were not fully on board with this plan as they were the primary drivers behind the Soriano deal.
  • It will be interesting to see how things play out in New York as Cashman’s contract is set to expire at the end of the upcoming season. The number of Yankee fans who feel it’s time to replace him seems to be growing as the team missed out on some of its bigger targets this winter. And while yes, he has had the luxury of working with a larger payroll than any other GM, Cashman does deserve a great deal of credit for the work he has done since taking over the job just prior to the 1998 season.
  • One thing is certain after the signing, the Yankees have what looks to be one of the top bullpens in baseball heading into 2011. Rivera will close, naturally, with Soriano his primary setup man. This will allow the team to utilize some combination of Robertson, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, and Chamberlain in the innings leading up to the 8th. The question has come up amongst most fans, however, as to whether Chamberlain should be moved back to the rotation considering that is still an area of weakness. Cashman has been sticking to his earlier statement that the team has no intentions of making such a move. However, that stance no longer seems to be a prudent one. Brien at It’s About The Money points out that such a move is “just a matter of obvious logic” at this point considering the alternatives. Meanwhile, Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues makes a compelling argument for the move, saying there is no excuse not to return Chamberlain to the rotation. I could not agree more with both argument. The team has disrupted Chamberlain’s development with the indecision about his role and moving him between the rotation and bullpen. Considering the current needs – does anyone really want Sergio Mitre in the rotation for a full season? – the opportunity has presented itself for the organization to rectify those prior missteps while simultaneously fixing a need. Time will tell how this one plays out. If they do allow Chamberlain the chance to start again, I will feel a lot better about the Soriano signing.
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