Rafael Soriano turned out to be a vital insurance policy for the New York Yankees. Now, they might need a new one.
The fill-in closer opted out of the final year of his $35 million, three-year contract Wednesday and will likely seek a long-term deal in free agency. Soriano had 42 saves for the AL East champions last season after Mariano Rivera tore knee ligaments in early May.
Soriano was set to make $14 million next year and had until Wednesday to opt out. Instead, New York will pay him a $1.5 million buyout. The Yankees can make him a qualifying offer of $13.3 million before Friday's midnight deadline and if Soriano signs with another team, they will get draft compensation.
"I'm not surprised because (agent) Scott Boras told me he was confident he could get him 15 times four (years), $60 million. If that's the case, it would be a good deal for Soriano," Yankees president Randy Levine told The Associated Press. "I hope that's what's real in the marketplace."
Soriano, who will be 33 in December, signed his lucrative contract with New York before the 2011 season after saving a career-high 45 games for Tampa Bay. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled general manager Brian Cashman in making the deal after Cashman was opposed to it.
Soriano began his stint with the Yankees as a setup man, then took over as the closer after Rivera was injured and did an outstanding job. But his potential departure further complicates an uncertain situation at the back of New York's bullpen for 2013. Rivera, who turns 43 in November, vowed right after his injury to return next year, but recently said he isn't sure whether he will pitch again.
While Soriano appears poised to leave the Yankees, Ervin Santana is headed to Kansas City and Ryan Ludwick plans to test the open market.
The Royals made their first move toward shoring up their shaky rotation, acquiring Santana from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk.
Santana was an All-Star in 2008 and threw a no-hitter in 2011, but struggled with the long ball this year. He allowed a major league-worst 39 homers and went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA — although he showed improvement down the stretch.
"We were able to scout Ervin during the entire year, specifically the second half," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "His August and September were really good. From a statistical standpoint, he was very good."
As part of the deal, the Angels sent $1 million to Kansas City. Los Angeles had exercised its $13 million option on Santana's contract for next season before trading him to the Royals.
The Royals declined their $8 million option on closer Joakim Soria after he had elbow ligament-replacement surgery and missed last season. Soria will receive a $750,000 buyout.
Even though Soria, a two-time All-Star with 160 saves over five seasons, is a free agent, both sides have expressed interest in working out a new contract.
David Wright ($16 million) and R.A. Dickey ($5 million) had their contract options picked up by the New York Mets. General manager Sandy Alderson has said signing the two All-Stars to long-term deals is his top priority this offseason.