Yankees RHP Rafael Soriano opts out of contract

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Rafael Soriano is poised to leave the New York Yankees, Ervin Santana is headed to Kansas City and Ryan Ludwick plans to test the open market.

Soriano opted out of the final year of his $35 million, three-year contract Wednesday and will likely seek a long-term deal in free agency. The right-hander had 42 saves for the Yankees last season after longtime closer Mariano Rivera tore knee ligaments in early May.

Soriano was set to make $14 million next season and had until Wednesday to opt out. 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 11:59 p.m. EDT deadline and if Soriano signs with another team, they will get draft compensation.

“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, 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. He began his stint with the Yankees as a setup man, then took over as closer when Rivera was injured.

The Royals made their first move toward shoring up their shaky rotation, acquiring Santana from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk.

Santana was an All-Star in 2008 and threw a no-hitter in 2011, but struggled with the long ball this year. He allowed a major league-worst 39 homers and went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA _ although he showed improvement in the second half of the season.

“We were able to scout Ervin during the entire year, specifically the second half,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “His August and September were really good. From a statistical standpoint, he was very good.”

Moore said the Royals will pay “the majority” of Santana’s $13 million salary next year. The Angels had exercised their $13 million option before trading the veteran pitcher and cash to the Royals.

The Royals, however, declined their $8 million club option on closer Joakim Soria after he had elbow ligament-replacement surgery and missed last season. Soria will receive a $750,000 buyout.

Even though Soria, a two-time All-Star with 160 saves over five seasons, is a free agent, both sides have expressed interest in working out a new contract.

All-Stars David Wright ($16 million) and R.A. Dickey ($5 million) had their contract options picked up by the New York Mets. General manager Sandy Alderson has said signing the two players to long-term deals is his top priority this offseason.

Tampa Bay exercised options on pitcher James Shields ($9.5 million), closer Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million) and catcher Jose Molina ($1.5 million). The Rays declined a $6 million option on designated hitter Luke Scott, instead paying him a $1 million buyout.

Ludwick and Cincinnati Reds teammate Ryan Madson became free agents when they declined mutual contract options.

The 34-year-old Ludwick turned down $5 million and received a $500,000 buyout. He batted .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs for the NL Central champions before going 6 for 18 (.333) with three homers and four RBIs in the division series loss to World Series champion San Francisco.

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