NEW YORK – Reliever Rafael Soriano opted out of the final year of a three-year, $35 million contract with the New York Yankees on Wednesday and will likely seek a long-term deal in free agency.
The move was expected after the right-hander had 42 saves and a 2.26 ERA while filling in for closer Mariano Rivera this season after baseball's saves leader tore a knee ligament in early May.
"I'm not surprised because (agent) Scott Boras told me he was confident he could get him 15 times four (years), $60 million. If that's the case, it would be a good deal for Soriano," Yankees president Randy Levine told The Associated Press. "I hope that's what's real in the marketplace."
Soriano was set to make $14 million next season. Instead, New York will pay him a $1.5 million buyout. The Yankees can make him a qualifying offer of $13.3 million before Friday's deadline, and if Soriano signs with another team, they will get draft compensation.
Soriano, who will be 33 in December, signed his hefty contract with New York before the 2011 season after notching a career-high 45 saves with Tampa Bay. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner overruled general manager Brian Cashman in making the deal. Cashman was opposed to giving closer money to a setup man.
The one-time All-Star had an injury-plagued first season with New York and he ended up getting the bulk of his work in the seventh inning, falling behind youngster David Robertson in the bullpen.
But when Rivera went down, and Robertson struggled as the replacement stopper before going on the disabled list, Soriano slipped comfortably into the role.
Soriano's possible departure further complicates the Yankees' bullpen for 2013. Rivera, who will turn 43 in November, vowed right after his injury to return next year, but recently said he isn't sure whether he will play again.
In other Yankees news, infielder Casey McGehee opted for free agency rather than accepting a minor league assignment. McGehee hit .151 (8 for 53) in 22 games with the Yankees after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31.
Rule 5 Draft pick Brad Meyers, a right-handed pitcher, was returned to the Washington Nationals. Meyers missed the entire season because of a labrum strain.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.