ETA, Thursday, December 16. News broke a day after this was posted that Wood is close to signing with the Cubs; however, the Soriano component still holds, at least for the time being.
This is pure speculation on my part, based on only Jon Heyman's belief that the Yankees will look to throw money at their bullpen now that they have around $23 million to spend. My initial thought was that that sounded ridiculous, given that the Yankees have had one of the better bullpens in the league during the last three seasons -- not to mention one primarily consisting of homegrown, relatively inexpensive parts -- but given the lack of quality free agent starting pitching options and the Yankees' presumed need to upgrade somewhere, it may not be as preposterous as it initially sounded.
For one thing, both free agents Rafael Soriano and Kerry Wood have yet to land anywhere. If the Yankees aren't able to bolster their rotation via trade, perhaps they might consider signing both Soriano and Wood to create a lockdown 7th-8th-9th-inning endgame along with Mariano Rivera, helping to mitigate some of the shorter outings the team is likely to receive from the back end of the Yankee rotation? The Yankees have tried rather fruitlessly to an engineer a return to the days of the so-called "six-inning game" they experienced courtesy of the devastating combo of John Wetteland and Rivera back in 1996, and they closest they came was back in 2004, with Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon setting up for Rivera, until Quantrill imploded in the second half.
Additionally, acquiring both Soriano and Wood would hypothetically push the Yankees' other strong relievers to even earlier frames in the game -- Ivan Nova's having trouble getting out of the fifth? Go to David Robertson. Joba Chamberlain could toss the sixth, and you could deploy Boone Logan for a dangerous lefty whenever you needed to.
Here's a graphical look at what Soriano and Wood have done, going back to 2007, which is the year Wood shifted to relief. It's worth noting that Soriano, outside of two injury-shortened seasons in 2004 and 2005, has been consistently excellent since basically 2003, a year in which he put up an impressive 1.53/1.80/2.63 line in 53 innings for the Mariners, worth 1.6 fWAR. Soriano's career triple slash is 2.73/3.23/3.68 over 395 innings.
Soriano's been one of the 15 best relievers in the game during the last three seasons, and had the 4th-lowest ERA among AL relief pitchers in 2010. We know what Wood can do, having pitched to an outrageously lucky 0.69 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 26 innings for the Yanks and remaining nails in the postseason, with a 2.25 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 8 innings. We also know that Wood was terrible in Cleveland before coming over to New York, with a 6.30 ERA in 20 innings. However, he was serviceable if not great for the Indians in 2009, and excellent for the Cubs in 2008 (2.2 fWAR).
Chances are the real American League version of Wood lies somewhere in his 2011 projections -- Bill James sees Wood as a 3.48 ERA (3.66 FIP) pitcher in 62 innings, while CAIRO has Wood at a 4.09 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 57 innings, good for 0.6 WAR. However, CAIRO's projection is also for Wood as an Indian, and so it's possible these numbers would be different for Wood the Yankee. James likes Soriano for a 2.03 ERA/2.90 FIP in 62 innings, both figures that are significantly ahead of his career averages (2.73/3.23), while CAIRO has Soriano at a 3.13 ERA/3.35 FIP in 66 innings, good for 1.2 WAR.
What might either pitcher cost? If we go strictly by the numbers, taking Dave Cameron's $5 million per win valuation this winter (although the Cliff Lee deal has probably affected that number somewhat), that would make Wood worth about $3 million on a one-year deal. Considering his 2010 was valuated at $1.5 million, that would represent a nice raise. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone has been assuming Wood will be seeking closer-type money, somewhere on the order of perhaps $8 to $10 million a year, but as the numbers show he's worth nowhere near that type of investment. The only time in the last eight seasons Wood was worth that much was his aforementioned dominant 2008, but I doubt anyone in baseball thinks he'll replicate that again. If the Yankees were able to split the difference and ink Wood to a one-year, $5 million deal, I'd have no problem with that.
And of course, the Yankees would probably have to pay even more to convince Soriano -- who's also looking for closer money -- to come to the Bronx to pitch the eighth inning. Soriano's excellent 2010 was worth $6.4 million, while his even better 2009 was worth $9 million. Going on SG's WAR projection, Soriano's 2011 looks to be worth about $6 million, which means he'll almost certainly be overpaid by someone looking for a top-shelf closer. However, if the market for Soriano falls and the Yankees are able to lure him for close to the $7.5 million he made with the Rays last season, that'd be a worthwhile way to spend part of the $20 million or so burning a hole in Brian Cashman's pocket.