Will negotiations between the Yankees and Mariano Rivera go smoothly?


New York Yankees future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera has told general manager Brian Cashman that he will return to the mound in 2013. Rivera, who will turn 43 next month, missed most of the 2012 season after tearing his right ACL shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City. Now, the Yankees will begin discussions on what should be the icon’s last contract.

A word of caution to Yankee fans, Rivera is not a pushover when it comes to business decisions. He loves being a Yankee and he’d rather pitch with New York than any other team, but he’s never been very easy to deal with when it came time to negotiate a contract.

Mariano Rivera has indicated he will return to the Bronx in 2013. How much will it cost the Yankees and how long will negotiations take? (Image: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

His most recent deal for the 2011-12 seasons was worth $30 million and it only reached that level after Rivera and his agent Fernando Cuza spoke with arch rival Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox who may or may not have gotten into the discussions just to drive the price up on the Yankees, offered Rivera a contract for three years as did two others according to a tweet from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman before Rivera signed with the Bombers.

It never appeared that Rivera would go elsewhere and I’m not going to suggest he is going to this year either. But Rivera despite his love for the Yankees treats his job like anyone else who negotiates a salary in their profession, and hometown discounts are not his thing. There were reports that Rivera was the one to contact the Red Sox in 2010, so we shouldn’t think that the Yankees are the only ones who will be in contact with him.

The Yankees will probably not begin negotiations with Rivera near the point of his $15 million salary from 2012. Rivera, certainly feels he will return to the mound every bit the pitcher he has been for the Yankees since 1996 (Rivera came up with the Yankees in 1995 and made 10 starts that season and was not all that good, but settled into the setup role to then closer John Wetteland the following season). In his mind and of course based on his agents’ advice, Rivera feels he is worth every penny he’ll ask for.

The Yankees should not assume (they may not) that Rivera is going to let them off the hook because he missed most of last season. Again that’s not the business of baseball. Players get injured all the time and collect their salary. That’s just how it works and Rivera, while considered a very generous man, is not going to cut his salary, at least not drastically, to pitch in New York.

The Yankees would be wise to start the process with Rivera very close or right at the $15 million mark if they want this to get settled early and move on to other pressing matters. Anything deemed to be a low-ball offer could turn this into a long process. Rivera is certainly willing to get others involved as he’s done in the past. There is nothing to think that he won’t now.

Put it this way, the Yankees were on the hook for $14 million with Rafael Soriano, who converted 42 of 46 save opportunities in Rivera’s absence. Soriano opted out, which basically gave Rivera more leverage than he already needed to secure a pretty lofty contract. So, how can the Yankees tell their closer, who looked like he was set for another fantastic season before he was injured (5 saves, 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings) that he’s not worth at least that much in 2013?

Another caveat to consider that provides us an idea of where the Yankees may start the contract offer is Rivera was not offered a qualifying contract (which would have been valued at $13.3 million). This means that interested teams would not lose a draft pick should Rivera jump ship. Also, the Yankees would not receive anything in return in the unlikely scenario he is not in pinstripes in 2013. But, the Yankees must have felt that he would not cost them at least that much in 2013 or else they make the offer.

The Yankees will surely point to his age, and his injury as reasons the salary should be lower than what he earned this season. But, Rivera nearly got back to full health before this year’s postseason which proves he is just as healthy as he’s ever been. Plus, it demonstrates his desire to get back to the mound and finish his career on a positive note waving his cap to Yankee faithful after yet another save, not being helped off the field.

I’m not saying this is going to be a contentious negotiation, but I believe we shouldn’t expect it to get done quickly either. The only way the contract is resolved swiftly is if the Yankees start their price as close to $15 million as they feel is appropriate showing Rivera his 608 career saves in pinstripes mean something more than one year’s salary. If they try to start in the $10-12 or even $13 million range, as should be expected considering they didn’t make the qualifying offer, expect Rivera to take it as part of the business and don’t be shocked if others get involved.

Rivera has gone out in search of other offers before and there is no reason for him to change his strategy now. The Yankees are going to do their part as a business to get the best deal they can. In the end Rivera closes this one out too, under his terms.