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Cashman: I was overruled on Soriano signing

Reliever Rafael Soriano, left, smiles during a news

Reliever Rafael Soriano, left, smiles during a news conference as Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, center, and manager Joe Girardi look on at Yankee Stadium. (Jan. 19, 2011) Credit: AP

At the news conference to introduce Rafael Soriano Wednesday, Brian Cashman admitted that he was against the signing but was overruled by Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner.

Welcome to New York, Rafael!

Actually, the former Rays closer-turned-Yankees-setup man wasn't around to hear his new general manager say he was against the transaction. The Yankees wisely had Cashman speak to reporters on the other side of the room from Soriano, who signed a contract that could be worth $35 million over three years.

No Steinbrenners were present at the news conference. But Cashman made it clear it was Hal who pushed for Soriano after the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee. Cashman said he did not even participate in negotiating the contract.

"I didn't recommend it - not because I dispute the ability of the player,'' Cashman said. "He's a tremendous player in what he does.''

Cashman said his objection was mostly based on spending $10 million or more annually on a setup man, even one who is masquerading as one because there were no lucrative closer jobs available. Soriano, 31, led the American League with 45 saves in 2010 for Tampa Bay.

A week before Soriano agreed to terms, Cashman said he would not give up the 31st pick in the June draft for any player on the free-agent market other than Lee, who spurned the Yankees to sign with the Phillies. The Rays now own the 31st pick because Soriano was a Type A free agent.

Cashman's public stance - and the Yankees' subsequent ignoring of it - led to speculation that it was losing the pick that most concerned Cashman. But he said that was a secondary consideration.

"Let me put it this way. I think 29 GMs would love their owner to force Rafael Soriano down their throat,'' Cashman said. "I don't think that's something that anyone would want to complain about. I took a stance and I'm not running from that stance."

Cashman, who is in the final year of his contract, almost left the Yankees once before over issues that included persistent meddling from George Steinbrenner. He got full autonomy in the baseball decisions, or as full as any general manager can get.

Hal Steinbrenner is much less high profile than his late father was (Cashman did not mention Hank Steinbrenner as having a role in the Soriano signing).

So the question of who's really the new boss in the Yankees' front office seems to be settled. It's Hal. Cashman said he's OK with that and doesn't see it as a bad sign for him.

"It's not my team," Cashman said. "I don't own it. They do . . . I'm a big boy."

Soriano's unique contract includes player opt-outs after the first two seasons. So it could be a short marriage - or Soriano could one day replace Mariano Rivera, 41.

"I know people will find this strange, but I'm very happy to be close to one of the greatest closers in Mariano Rivera," Soriano said through a translator. "Hopefully in the future I will, after being a setup man, be the closer, too.''

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