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Rivera does age, but ages well

12/3/2010

Mariano Rivera has apparently re-upped with the Yankees for two more seasons, undoubtedly leaving Yankees fans wondering why some are so easy and so so difficult.

According to the Daily News, the deal came together quickly:

    Thursday night, Rivera's agent Fernando Cuza - who was one of the many guests at Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's celebrity golf tournament kickoff dinner - had said the Yankees and Rivera's camp were "a little far apart" on getting a new deal done for Rivera, and that "hopefully we'll be able to work it out." But within hours, a deal came together, perhaps expedited because Rivera had recently received a three-year deal and more money (believed to be in the neighborhood of $17 million per year) from another team, according to the source. The source added that Rivera wanted to maintain his ties to the only team he has ever played for, and went with less money and fewer years to continue wearing pinstripes.

    --snip--

    While Jeter's numbers were down in 2010, batting well below his .314 career average, Rivera showed no signs of age, posting another impressive season with a 1.80 ERA and 33 saves. It's unclear if Rivera would want to pitch beyond this deal ...

Well, I wouldn't say he's showed no signs of age. Rivera's strikeout-to-walk ratio this year was his lowest since 2004. Then again, it was also slightly higher than his career mark and second-best among American League closers.

What's more striking (to me, anyway) is Rivera's innings. He used to be good for 75 or 80 innings per season. Then 70. And in Joe Girardi's first two seasons as manager, it's been 66 and 60. Granted, as long as the Yankees make the playoffs, the only thing that matters is having Rivera ready to pitch in October. It just gets harder, on paper, to justify a $15 million salary when the innings don't start with (at least) a 7. And I couldn't help noticing that Girardi never asked Rivera to pitch more than one full inning during this fall's postseason festivities.

What's made Rivera the greatest reliever in the game's history has been his ability to pitch brilliantly and often, at least in October. And it's not clear that he's still going to be used often in October. Which probably makes him worth somewhat less than $15 million.

Again, that's on paper. There was no way the Yankees were letting Rivera get away. And because he pitched so well in 2010, it shouldn't be surprising if there really was another solid offer from another club. Which was all his agent needed to secure a deal that will pay Rivera what he was already making.