A day after resigning starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, the New York Yankees have resigned another one of their all-time greats. As reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Yankees and closer Mariano Rivera have agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million. The deal could be worth more when adding in performance incentives.
This past season was the last year of a two-year contract Rivera signed prior to the 2011 season. Many speculated it could be Rivera’s final season. Then, after suffering a season-ending ACL injury while shagging fly balls during batting practice before a May 3rd game against the Kansas City Royals, it was believed baseball had seen the end of the greatest closer of all-time. However, the very next day, Rivera vowed he would return. After backtracking a bit at the conclusion of the season, we now know for sure that Rivera will be closing out games for the Yankees in 2013.
The all-time leader in saves with 608, Rivera pitched well before his injury last season. In nine appearances, he saved five games for the Yankees while posting a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched. For his career, Rivera has a 2.21 ERA while being selected to 12 All-Star games in his 18 seasons.
With the resignings of Hiroki Kuroda, Pettitte and Rivera, the Yankees rotation and backend of the bullpen should be set for the 2013 season. The Yankees will go into spring training with six starters (C.C. Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps). Barring a trade, Hughes should be the fourth starter, with Nova and Phelps battling it out for the final spot, the loser then becoming the longman out of the bullpen. David Robertson should continue in his role as set-up man to Rivera, meaning there is almost no chance the club will attempt to bring back Rafael Soriano. Soriano took over for Rivera after the injury and had a fantastic season, saving 42 games in 46 chances. He is now looking to cash in on his great season and with the Yankees mandate to get their payroll under $189 million before the 2014 season, it is unlikely the Yankees would offer Soriano anything past a one-year deal worth north of $10 million.
With Kuroda, Pettitte and Rivera back in the fold, the Yankees can focus on their two remaining openings at catcher and right field. Incumbent catcher Russell Martin today signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to David Waldstien. The team does have two catcher’s in house in last year’s back up Chris Stewart and fan favorite Francisco Cervelli. There is also minor league prospect Austin Romine. Eli Whiteside, who the Yankees had acquired off waivers from the San Francisco Giants earlier this offseason, was designated for assignment to make room for Pettitte.
The two best catching options on the free-agent market are A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Napoli. Pierzynski had an outstanding season last year for the Chicago White Sox, hitting .278 with 27 homeruns and 77 RBI in 135 games played. He is a veteran of four postseasons and won a World Series championship with the White Sox in 2005. In 30 career postseason games, Pierzynski has a .300 batting average. As for Napoli, he had a down year (.227, 24 HRs, 56 RBI) after his torrid 2011 season (.320, 30 HRs, 75 RBI). There are also concerns with his catching abilities, as he’s never caught more than 96 games in any of his seven seasons.
As for right field, the Yankees took a look at Torii Hunter before he signed with the Detroit Tigers. They could just bring back Ichiro Suzuki, whom they acquired from the Seattle Mariners mid-season in 2012. After hitting just .261 with the Mariners, Ichiro posted Ichiro-like numbers with the Yankees, hitting .322 with 14 stolen bases in 67 games with the Yankees. Ichiro is interested in remaining in New York and is willing to wait to hear from them before deciding where to continue his career, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN.
If the Yankees decide to bring in a new face to play right field, the free agent market includes names such as Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, Grady Sizemore and Shane Victorino. Heyman reported a couple of days back that the Yankees are believed to be interested in Victorino.
One possibility for the Yankees is trading current center-fielder Curtis Granderson to fill in their remaining holes. Granderson, who is 31 years old, has his option for next season picked up for the Yankees. Again, with the Yankees payroll mandate of 2014, it is hard envisioning them signing Granderson to a long-term deal north of the $15 million annually he will be paid this coming season, especially with the impending free agency of superstar second baseman Robinson Cano. The Yankees could look to trade Granderson for a catcher and outfielder, and then sign another of the above mentioned outfielders to fill in the hole at right field and the hole in centerfield that would be created by moving the three-time All-Star.