The all-important handoff to Mariano Rivera was locked down in the second half this year by Kerry Wood, who took over the duties and ran with it after his July 31 trade, making the Yankees’ bullpen a strength as they headed into the playoffs.
With Wood taking much less money to go back to the Cubs, the Yankees are carrying eighth inning options like the ones they had on July 30. The top two choices in-house seem to be Joba Chamberlain, who lost the role due to inconsistency, and Dave Robertson, who was effective for much of the year but endured a rough postseason.
But there are at least a couple of intriguing choices out there. Royals closer Joakim Soria reportedly told a Mexican newspaper this week that he would not block a trade to the Yankees.
“There is a no-trade clause to the Yankees in my contract, but I did not put it there,” Soria told Vanguardia in Spanish. “My agent put it in, as a strategy, but if the Royals decide to move me to New York, I would be happy to play with the Yankees or any team. …
“Again, I wouldn’t block a trade to the Yankees. I like to play baseball and will play with any team. That is the important thing, to do it with passion and great dedication.”
The Royals haven’t shown an indication that they will trade Soria this winter. He’s owed an affordable $4 million for 2011, with club options for $6 million, $8 million and $8.75 million for the next three seasons. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Soria near the July 31 trading deadline this year, dangling Jesus Montero as a chip.
Multiple reports have pegged the Yankees as having some level of interest in Brian Fuentes, though they’d have company in pursuing him. As many as 11 teams could be in on Fuentes, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
Then there’s Rafael Soriano, who led the American League with 45 saves this year for the Rays and is still out there seeking closer money. Brian Cashman said earlier this month that the Yankees weren’t prepared to pay those kinds of dollars for a setup man in Wood’s case, but now that the Cliff Lee saga has played out, perhaps that mindset could change.
If Soriano would be willing to come to New York, with the understanding that he would be Rivera’s setup man, it could take a good deal of pressure off the 41-year-old Rivera. It’s very possible the Yankees will remain quiet into the New Year, but there could be more buzz on this and other topics in January.