The Three Way Closer Dance

Rafael Soriano opts out, leaving Yankees with two free agent closers

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Soriano's next save could come in a different uniform.

    You've probably seen it play out in more than one movie over the years.

    Three characters with a revolving set of hostilities hold guns on one another as they try to either talk out their differences or hope that they are able to squeeze the trigger first while escaping the bullets shot by the other men. It's become known as a Mexican standoff, although we might need to change the name after this Yankees offseason. 

    A Bronx standoff is brewing after Wednesday's announcement that Rafael Soriano is exercising his opt-out clause and becoming a free agent after saving 42 games this season as the replacement for Mariano Rivera. Soriano was set to make $14 million in 2013, but he's rolling the dice that someone's going to give him more years to come in and close games for their team. 

    It's not a surprising decision, given Soriano's desire to remain a closer and his agent Scott Boras' ability to find people to fork over unbelievable sums of money for his clients. The Yankees will make a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for next year, one they'd happily pay for Soriano, but it's hard to imagine Boras will settle for that in the nine days there are to make the decision. 

    There's that aforementioned ability to part fools from their money and there's also the fact that Boras knows the Yankees won't make a move until they know what Mariano Rivera plans to do. Brian Cashman has said that Rivera still isn't sure whether he plans to play in 2013 or not. 

    Given everything else he's said, it feels more likely that Rivera knows he wants to play and knows that bluffing about it will make the Yankees a bit more aggressive in their contract negotiations. Rivera watched what happened with Derek Jeter and knows that the financial decision can be impacted by the emotional. 

    Rivera will likely have to take some cut from his $15 million salary in 2012 or, at the very least, turn some guarantees into incentives, but he's a free agent and entitled to handle things any way he sees fit. The thought of his leaving for another team is impossible to imagine, but he joins Soriano in the heavy leverage department. 

    Cashman and the Yankees don't have the same leverage, although you can already hear Cashman listing the names of David Robertson and other relievers while saying that he won't sign anyone to a deal that isn't to the team's exact specifications. That's going to make it a question of which of the three shoots first. 

    The big difference between a Bronx standoff and a Mexican standoff is that the latter always plays out as a case of mutually assured destruction. The Bronx standoff is going to wind up working out well for Soriano and Rivera, whichever decision he winds up trying to make. 

    It's less clear that the Yankees will come out ahead, although we'd be very surprised if this standoff ends with them walking away without one of the two closers they used in 2012. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.