NEW YORK -- The ninth-inning situation became more unclear for the Yankees on Wednesday, as right-hander Rafael Soriano officially triggered an opt-out clause in his contract.
Soriano, who stepped in as the Yanks' closer this year after Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending knee injury in May, will receive a $1.5 million buyout from New York after exercising the clause.
Had Soriano stayed with the Yankees under the original terms of his three-year, $35 million deal, he would have been in line to earn $14 million in 2013. He saved 42 games in 46 chances this year, going 2-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 69 relief appearances.
It is likely that the Yanks will offer Soriano a qualifying one-year contract of $13.3 million before a Friday deadline, ensuring they would receive Draft compensation if Soriano signs elsewhere.
That would guarantee Soriano at least $14.8 million, an overall increase of $800,000, but Soriano is reportedly in the market for a four-year contract coming off his strong season for New York and, via agent Scott Boras, is expected to reject the qualifying offer.
Soriano's 42 saves since May 3, when Rivera went on the disabled list, were second in the Majors only to Jim Johnson of the Orioles, who logged 44 saves during that time span. Soriano finished the regular season tied for third in the Majors in saves behind Johnson (51) and Fernando Rodney of the Rays (48).
"We wouldn't be where we are without Sori," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said in September. "He has been outstanding. He has the history of being a closer, but he's been as good as you could have hoped for."
Complicating Soriano's opt-out is that the Yanks also have uncertainty about Rivera, who is currently a free agent. Rivera had vowed to return from his torn right anterior cruciate ligament, but more recently has been thought to be seriously considering retirement.
"I talked to Mariano [on Oct. 23], and he is not sure what he's interested in doing just yet," general manager Brian Cashman said last week. "I think in Spring Training he was intending to retire at the end of the year, so I don't think he knows what he wants to do just yet. Am I surprised by that? No."
Rivera earned $15 million last season, and it is unlikely that the Yankees would pay him at that level at age 43 and coming off a serious injury.
Additionally on Wednesday, the Yankees announced that infielder Casey McGehee has opted for free agency rather than accepting a Minor League assignment. McGehee batted .151 (8-for-53) in 22 games with the Yanks after being acquired from the Pirates on July 31 in exchange for right-hander Chad Qualls.
The Yankees also returned Rule 5 Draft pick Brad Meyers, a right-handed pitcher, to the Nationals. Meyers missed the entire season with a right shoulder injury.