The 2012 season started as a farewell tour for Mariano Rivera, but the torn ACL that knocked the Yankee closer out for almost all of the season changed things.
Rivera said that he would definitely return for another year, which wasn't that surprising since no one wanted Rivera's last Yankee moment to be laying face down in a heap on a warning track after suffering a serious injury. Seeing him in the dugout during the latter part of the season was a reminder that we'd get to hear "Enter Sandman" a few more times before really putting the Rivera era to bed.
The landscape appears to be shifting a little bit on that front. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that Rivera is having second thoughts about his return.
"He said he doesn’t know what he is doing yet. I asked him what his plans were and he said, ‘I haven’t decided yet.’ He said he was working his way through about 2013 and he would let me know soon," Cashman said. "He might retire, he might play. He doesn’t know yet. I told him when you know where you are at let us know."
This is not an insignificant piece of information for the Yankees to have when they start making plans for next season. Plenty of decisions weigh on whether or not Rivera comes back, starting with the future of Rafael Soriano.
Soriano's excellent work this season makes it much more likely that he will opt out of the final year of his Yankee deal and find a team that wants him to be a closer next year. The Yankees have to make a call on going after Soriano under those conditions (or otherwise altering his contract to keep him in the Bronx) and they can't really make it unless they know what they have with Rivera.
It's enough to make you wonder if Cashman isn't maybe being a bit less certain about Rivera's status as he might be in order to force Soriano's hand. If Rivera returns, losing Soriano's $14 million salary from the payroll would enable the Yankees to address more needs without leaving themselves without a closer.
Even without Soriano, David Robertson will be back and former Mariners closer David Aardsma spent the season recovering from an injury that was pretty close to healed by the end of the season. There's coverage on the roster for another Rivera injury, in other words, and Soriano could be superfluous at that price.
That's not the only possible hidden message here. Rivera is also a free agent and he could be doing a bit of "negotiating" in order to land himself the biggest possible deal before setting his return to the Yankees in stone.
There's a better than zero chance that this is reading way too much into what's going on and that Rivera is just making sure he's mentally and physically ready to pitch again. Given all the moving parts, though, it's hard not to notice the domino effect that this decision touches off in both directions.