AP Photo/Steve Nesius

Yankees Sign Rafael Soriano, Bulster Bullpen

The New York Yankees took a big step forward in shoring-up their pitching staff on Thursday with the signing of Rafael Soriano. The former closer and late-inning reliever will act as a set-up man for the great Mariano Rivera and will likely succeed the sure Hall-of-Famer when he decides to hang-up his cleats. Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Soriano collected 45 saves and posted an impressive 1.73 era in 64 games. His knowledge of the AL East and the Red Sox (.178 opposing batting average against Sox) and his ability to perform at the highest level late in games, makes him an incredible asset. The Yankees pulled out the stops for Soriano, creating a unique, flexible contract involving a player opt-out after year 1 and year 2, while paying him $35 million for 3 years. (more after the jump)

After the Yankees missed out on a few of their big targets this off-season (Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford), they have been fairly quite, adding just a handful of role players, but you know Brian Cashman is not going to sit idly by and watch the Red Sox gain talent and sure-up their offense. The addition of Soriano now creates one of the best late-inning bullpens in baseball with the combination of Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. If they all remain healthy and pitch up to their ability, it will be an interesting year for Bronx Bombers. The question still remains with the starting rotation for the Yankees that features C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Sergio Mitre, Ivan Nova and TBD. The addition of Andy Pettitte, if he decides to return to baseball, would certainly make them better, but still leave 2 big question marks in the 4th and 5th starter slots.

Overall, the Yankees are, as always, a strong team entering the 2011 season, but they aren’t done yet. They are still looking for a right-handed 4th outfielder, but have also kicked the tires on lefty Johnny Damon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Manny Ramirez also sign in New York, because he brings a big name and if he can put his struggles at the plate, could be a huge asset. No move from Cashman would surprise me at this point and trading for outfielder or starting pitcher is never out of the question, whether it is now or at the deadline mid-season. For now, the Yankees have taken a step forward in making life difficult for Red Sox in 2011.

Tags: A.J. Burnett AL East Andy Pettitte Boston Red Sox Bullpen C.C. Sabathia Carl Crawford Cliff Lee David Robertson Ivan Nova Joba Chamberlain Johnny Damon Manny Ramirez Mariano Rivera New York Yankees Rafael Soriano Sergio Mitre Signings Starters Tampa Bay Rays

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