Agent Scott Boras strongly indicated that his client, Rafael Soriano, will opt out of his contract with the New York Yankees and become a free agent this offseason, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boras will have further conversations with Soriano and the Yankees before finalizing any plans, but the Yankees are unlikely to offer a long-term deal to the 32 year-old closer, making the move almost imminent.
"There is a strong chance that he would have tremendous value as a free agent," Boras told The Post.
Boras lists Soriano's 42 saves this season and a strong need for closers this offseason as reasons for Soriano's high price tag. He currently has a $14 million player option for next season with the Yankees.
The veteran right-hander will have until three days after the World Series to either accept or decline the option. If he opts for free agency, he will receive a $1.5 million buyout from the Yankees, who would then have five days to make a qualifying offer to Soriano.
To qualify, the offer will have to be around $13.3-13.6 million, or the average of the top 125 salaries in Major League Baseball. Soriano will have one week to accept the offer or elect free agency and begin talking with other teams. If Soriano declines New York's offer and signs elsewhere, the Yankees will receive a draft pick between the first and second rounds of next June's draft.
Soriano, who turns 33 this winter, was 2-1 with a 2.26 ERA and 42 saves this season. He started the season splitting the set-up man role with David Robertson until closer Mariano Rivera's season was ended with a torn ACL.
Robertson was initially given the new role as closer, but after struggling early on, the job was awarded to Soriano in early May. His 42 saves were just three short of his career-high of 45 in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
If Rivera, who is also a free agent, decides to play another season, it is highly doubtful he plays anywhere else but the Bronx. That fills New York's need for a closer, but also leaves the team with options such as David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and David Aardsma as late-inning relievers, making Soriano expendable.
The Yankees are trying to lower the team's payroll under $189 million by 2014, so a big deal for a set up man like Soriano may not be in the team's future plans.
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