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A lot of ink has been spilled over the last few seasons discussion the Yankees plan of succession at closer once Mariano Rivera begins to age and retires. Joba Chamberlain’s name is the most common suggestion, Mark Melancon has gotten some support, and future free agents such as Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria have been mentioned as well. All of these discussions presupposed that eventually Rivera would begin to show signs of aging, and would need to be replaced. Yet here we are in 2010, Mo has passed age 40, and he is still as dominant as ever.
Mo notched his 50th straight save at home recently, and continues to display remarkable efficiency and consistency. In 6 innings thus far this year, he has yet to allow a run, and has given up just two hits and one walk against 6 strikeouts.He has faced just 19 hitters in those 6 innings, and has thrown 68% of his pitches for strikes, right at his career mark. Quite simply, he has shown little indication that he will slow down any time soon.
The looming question, then, is what will happen with Mo when he hits free agency next fall if he continues to perform at this level. Hopefully, he will be willing to go on the Andy Pettitte plan, going year-by-year with his contracts rather than insisting on a longer term contract. If he wants a longer commitment, the Yankees will be put into a difficult situation, whereby they will need to figure out how long they are willing to go with a very unique 41 year old man. A contract that takes him to 43 or even 44 might pushing their luck as far as the Yankees are concerned, and the team might be better served by offering Mariano a shorter deal with a higher average annual value. While I am certain that Mo will be a Yankee going forward, the negotiations should be interesting to follow.
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