The best free agent still available is reliever, Rafael Soriano. Naturally, any top free agent will instantly make some connection to the New York Yankees. Soriano was one of the American League’s top closers last year, recording 45 saves while posting a 1.73 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays. After Kerry Wood signed back on with the Chicago Cubs, the Yankees were left with a sizable eighth inning hole in the back of the pen. Can Soriano step in and fill in Wood’s void?

Pros of Signing Soriano:

1. Age: Given Mariano Rivera’s age (41) and contract (two years), Soriano (31) would give the Yankees a very strong second option. The immortal Rivera is basically a robotic baseball player, however, the odds of injury seemingly increase with age. If Rivera were to miss time, what current Yankee would assume the closer role? Boone Logan? Inking Soriano would alleviate any concerns with Rivera’s age.

2. Dominance in the AL East: Soriano’s 45 saves were the most in baseball last season. He posted impressive numbers across board including BAA(.163), WHIP (0.80), and K/9 (9.80). The Yankees may not be able to make a huge impact with the remaining free agent starting pitchers, but having a proven, dominant bullpen would give them an edge on the competition.

Cons of Signing Soriano:

1. Costs Associated: Soriano’s agent is none other than Scott Boras. Over the years, Boras has been able to land massive contracts for many of his clients. Many believe that Jayson Werth (7 years/$126 million) and Adrian Beltre (5 years/$80 million) were overpaid, but it seems like it was just Boras being Boras. The guy is phenomenal at his job and his clients ALWAYS seem to get paid. In turn, the asking price for a 31-year-old closer coming off his best season ever will be extremely high.

In addition to the dollars associated with signing Soriano, the Yankees would give up their first round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Rays since Soriano is a ‘Type A’ free agent. The 2011 draft is going to be very, very deep and we’ve already seen the Yankees stress the importance of their younger players so giving up a first-round pick may be too costly for the Bombers. The Yankees do have one guaranteed Top 50 draft pick (Thank You Javy for declining arbitration), but a second one seems alluring.

2. Sustainability: Not many relievers outside of Mr. Rivera warrant multi-year contracts. Think back to the last five years and name all of the dominant bullpen arms that are no longer relevant. BJ Ryan, Danys Baez, David Riske, Brandon Lyon, and Chad Bradford come to mind. Even Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez have seen their numbers inflate over the last few seasons.

In addition to the overall volatility of relievers, Soriano has a checked injury slate. He had two Tommy John surgeries (2004 and 2005) and elbow surgery (2008). This point solidifies the questions with the sustainability of relievers.

The Verdict:

If the Yankees could sign on the 2010 version of Soriano for 2011 and 2012, I’d be interested to learn how much it would cost. I’d be more than willing to sacrifice a first-round draft pick if it meant that the bullpen would be solid for the next two seasons. Signing Soriano would also hedge against a potential Rivera injury.

However, given the Yankee mentality about signing relievers, the price and years must be right. Inking Pedro Feliciano for two years, $8 million seemed appropriate, but shelling out $10 million or more per season for Soriano would be too much. The checkered injury history and Boras effect also causes some concern.

If the Yankees could sign Soriano to a one-year deal with a club option for a second year, I think they will explore it.