Just a week after the Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers, they suffered another possible loss. ESPN reported that Mariano Rivera is having second thoughts about whether or not he will retire. The future Hall of Famer, who will turn 43 next month, tore his ACL while shagging balls in Kansas City this past May.
Rivera has yet to inform the Yankees of his plans for 2013, which could become a problem as free agency approaches.
Rafael Soriano, who replaced Rivera as New York's closer and was successful in doing so, is expected to opt out of his option for next season and enter the open market. Soriano has a $14 million option for 2013, but wants the long-term security of a multiyear contract. With Scott Boras representing him, the chances of the reliever receiving one are high.
In the end, it all leads back to Rivera.
Problem 1 – If Rivera retires, the Yankees lose another legend and unless Andy Pettitte returns, they'll be left with two-fourths of the Core Four. The window is closing with Jorge Posada at home, Pettitte with one foot in-and-out of the door, Rivera contemplating it and Jeter showing his immortality in the form of a fractured ankle. The emotional ties Yankee fans had with the team are dwindling.
Problem 2 – With Rivera gone, New York has to pay Soriano. That is, unless they want to take a chance on someone like Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez or Jose Valverde (unlikely). If Rivera hangs up his cutter, Soriano has all the leverage in contract talks and you can envision a three-year deal worth between $35 million and $50 million.
Problem 3 – Truth be told, the Yankees are comfortable overpaying for a legend at closer, but giving Soriano that type of money would hamper their ability to lower their payroll in 2014. Soriano isn't going accept a one-year deal; otherwise he wouldn't opt out of the $14 million he could deposit next season. Spending excessively on the bullpen will trickle down and handcuff Brian Cashman when it comes to upgrading the offense and/or starting rotation.
Plain and simple, the Yankees need to send Jeter, crutches and all, to Rivera's house with flowers, chocolates and a subscription to a Fruit of the Month club. They need him in pinstripes or four straight losses at the hands of the Tigers won't sting nearly as badly as the next few seasons will.