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Rafael Soriano: Best Move The Yankees Could Have Made

Here is my initial reaction to the New York Yankees somewhat surprising signing tonight of relief pitcher Rafael Soriano. Yesssssssssss!

The Yankees have been hunting around the dregs of the bargain-basement starting pitching market for weeks now, and doing something about their pitching has taken on even more urgency with Andy Pettitte staying on the sidelines at least at the beginning of the season.

General manager Brian Cashman has made the best move he could make here, and it was done in typical, stealthy, under-the-radar Cashman style. He had been saying he would not part with the Yankees No. 1 draft pick for a relief pitcher, which is exactly what he just did by signing Soriano, a Type A free agent.

Starter or reliever, Soriano was the best available pitcher on the market once the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee. The 31-year-old saved 45 games for Tampa Bay last season, and compiled a 1.73 ERA and 0.802 WHIP. A nine-year veteran, Soriano has closed for the past two years but had long been one of the game’s best set-up men prior to that.

He will set up for Mariano Rivera with the Yankees, provide insurance if the 41-year-old Rivera gets hurt, and could be in a position to take over as closer if and when Rivera retires. The deal is for three years and $35 million, but SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported Soriano has the ability to opt out after the first or second year.

The signing also gives the Yankees the option of moving Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation. No one knows if they will, but I’m certain this will be a huge source of debate among Yankee fans going forward, and with good reason. Chamberlain is likely a better starting option than much of what is left on the free-agent market, and also a seemingly more appetizing option than journeyman Sergio Mitre.