Via Bill Madden and the boys –
The Yankees made a hairpin turn when they decided Thursday to sign All-Star closer Rafael Soriano to become a set-up man and perhaps their closer-in-waiting.
Less than a week earlier, GM Brian Cashman had said he wouldn’t give up the first-round draft pick required to ink Soriano. But Hal and Hank Steinbrenner didn’t agree with his game plan – according to a source familiar with the Yankees’ thinking – and overruled him, giving the righthander a deal that could ultimately go to three years and pay him $35 million.
The overwhelming concern among the Yankee brass, the source said, was that the club was going into the season with an uncertain starting rotation and little protection for closer Mariano Rivera. The move leaves the team without the draft pick Cashman coveted, but with one of the best bullpens in baseball.
According to the source, the Steinbrenners were bothered by Cashman’s blueprint. One of the big issues was that Joba Chamberlain, a prized prospect yet to reach an expected high ceiling, was going to be Rivera’s primary set-up man.
Cashman had maintained his confidence in homegrown relievers Chamberlain and David Robertson, but Bombers’ braintrust did not. If nothing else, they saw Soriano, coming off a career best 45-save season with a 1.73 ERA, as a premium insurance policy they couldn’t pass up.
The Yankees did not add free agent ace lefty Cliff Lee and may yet lose lefty Andy Pettitte, who is undecided on whether to play in 2011. The Steinbrenners deemed the draft pick that Cashman so highly valued – the 31st overall in next June’s draft – a small price to pay considering the state of the staff going into the season.
Considering Cashman’s track record with making decisions regarding pitching, can you really blame the Steinbrenners for panicking here? And, while the Soriano deal is probably a mistake, this is great news for Cashman – because now the teflon G.M. won’t have this one pinned to him when it fails. But, it’s also great news for those who are not fans of Cashman – because it shows that ownership doesn’t think enough of his baseball acumen to build a team. The bigger question may be which great news is the greater great news.