Well, that was unexpected.
Despite being connected for much of the winter, I never thought the Yankees were particularly serious about signing Rafael Soriano, considering that he was not only bound to be cost-prohibitive, but would also cost the Yankees their first-round draft pick in a draft that many have cited as the deepest in years. I especially didn't think they'd be signing Soriano after Cashman stated seemingly definitively just the other day that the Yankees would "not be surrendering a draft pick for a relief pitcher."
To turn around and not only go completely back on that statement but also hand a three-year, $35 million deal to a pitcher who saw his K/9 shrink by nearly four strikeouts from 2009 to 2010 is, needless to say, a bit of a blindside.
Does Soriano make the Yankees better in 2011? Assuming he doesn't get injured, yes. As SG showed at RLYW the other day, the addition of Soriano may improve the Yankees' postseason chances by about 8%, and could add roughly two wins. However, this would be an absolute best-case scenario outcome for Soriano, and even then he's not worth nearly $12 million for one season, let alone three. Apparently Soriano can opt out after each of the first two years, which I suppose makes this a slightly more palatable deal, but there are no guarantees that he does so.
As I noted about a month ago, Soriano has been one of the 15 best relievers in the game during the last three seasons, so this isn't exactly Kyle Farnsworth redux (although it is eerily similar to Steve Karsay, another injury-prone pitcher who happened to be the fifth-best reliever in baseball by fWAR over the three seasons preceding his signing with the Yankees in 2002), but it's still a pretty ugly deal. To focus on the positives for a moment, the Yankees' 8th-9th inning endgame should be quite treacherous for opponents to deal with, although that's also assuming they're able to deliver Soriano and Mariano Rivera a lead -- no sure thing with the uncertainty in the rotation.
And that's probably the aspect of this deal that I find most critical. The money's bad, but the greater problem is that Brian Cashman still hasn't done anything about the gaping hole also known as the Yankees' fourth and fifth starters. As literally every single person on my Twitter feed has noted, the silver lining to this move could (and should) be the rightful move of Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation. There is literally no reason to keep him in the 'pen now. Unfortunately Chad Jennings already spoke to someone with the Yankees, and apparently there have still been no internal discussions about moving Joba back to the rotation. Here's holding out hope that perhaps that's just another "we won't surrender a draft pick for a relief pitcher" red herring, but if they were planning on converting Joba back to a starter I'm not sure why they'd be playing it this close to the vest.
I know I've been a considerable Cashman apologist throughout this offseason, but if this statement regarding Joba is indeed true and the Yankees fail to sign anyone better than Sergio Mitre to fill the back end of the rotation despite having a perfectly viable in-house candidate then that is just completely irresponsible and I may not be able to continue defending him.
To be honest I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this deal, and will probably come to a more salient conclusion after sleeping on it.