Jobu continues to dream about the free agent possibilites for the Yankees.
In our last post, we profiled a bullpen arm I wouldn’t mind the Yankees adding (Koji Uehara) and a new possible right fielder in Torii Hunter. Now that we know that Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano have declined the qualifying offer the Yankees made them, those two start to look a little more enticing, no? In this post, however, it’s all about the arms. Now, let’s keep in mind that I don’t expect the Yankees to sign all of these guys. That would be madness, and very expensive. These are just guys I would’t mind seeing on the team. If the Yankees can get some or all of them, I’ll be very happy. Anyway, onto today’s candidates. One of them is a proven commodity coming off of a major elbow injury and the other is basically a complete unknown… and he’s a teenager. Let’s get it on.
As baseball fans, we should all be familiar with Joakim Soria. The Mexican right hander was once one of the best closers in all of baseball for the Kansas City Royals. From 2008-2010, Soria saved 115 games, struck out 206 men in 186 innings (with only 51 walks) and put up a ridiculous 1.84 ERA. That’s about as dominant a stretch as you’ll see from a major league closer. All that good pitching earned him the nickname “The Mexicutioner,” which is one of my favorites in all of sports (right Clu?). Something went wrong in 2011 and he struggled to a 4.03 ERA, but he still saved 28 games, 9 K/9 for the season. Soria did not pitch at all in 2012 because he met that man named Tommy John on April 3.
The Tommy John recovery doesn’t really bother me. Guys have been known to bounce back almost better than ever after the surgery. It just takes time to heal and readjust to throwing on a major league mound. I am a little concerned that Soria will be only a year removed from the surgery on opening day. They say it takes 18 months for a pitcher to fully come back from TJ. We saw what Joba did this year when he tried to come back a year after surgery (he eventually found it, but for a while he was just throwing meatballs). Even if Soria can be back by opening day, his command might not be ready.
That being said, Soria has expressed interest in setting up for the Yankees. If he goes anywhere else he wants to close, but he’ll set up for the good guys behind Mariano Rivera. Sometimes it’s nice being a Yankees fan, isn’t it? I’ve always secretly (or not so secretly) that the Yankees could land Soria. We’ve seen the Yankees sign pitchers coming off of TJ before (David Aardsma, Jon Lieber, Octavio Dotel), so I don’t think they’ll shy away. A guy like Soria can probably be had on the cheap or with an incentive laden deal of some kind, and he could pay off huge out of the pen.
At some point, we have to stop worrying about 2013, and start worrying about 2014, 15 and beyond. That’s where Shohei Otani might come in. At 18 years old, Otani is not someone who will be contributing this year, next year, or the year after. In fact, I’d be shocked to see him in the majors until four or five years from now. Just the fact that he’s going to sign with a major league team has caused huge controversy in Japan. Otani will be the first player to ever jump from Japanese high school to professional baseball in the US. Controversy or not, if the scouting reports I have read are accurate, he could be pretty special when he finally arrives.
Because he’s tall and from Japan, the 6’4″ fireballer has been compared to Yu Darvish, last year’s favorite Japanese import and current Texas Ranger. The comparisons don’t stop at size though. According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, his fastball sits at around 92-96 mph, and he has already touched 98 from time to time. He also throws a tight slider at 82-85 mph, and sometimes features a splitter and a big curveball. Scouts say his command leaves a lot to be desired at times, but what 18 year old comes in with precision control?
The new collective bargaining agreement kind of throws a wrench into this plan. The Yankees are only allowed $3MM to spend on international free agents per season. According to RAB, they spent most of that on the three players they signed on day one last year. This means that, if they want to sign Otani, they’ll have less to spend for this year’s batch of players. This might be prohibitive, but who knows what players will be available in July (when the clock resets on that $3MM)? Why not spend the money now on a guy you know is available? It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do about Otani. He’ll probably end up with the Red Sox though.
Stay tuned for part three, which is coming later this week!
Featured image courtesy of: Jeff Riedel/New York Times
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