How could you leave this behind? (Kathy Willens / AP)

Rafael Soriano proved to be a capable replacement at closer after the New York Yankees lost Mariano Rivera early in the season. Now the veteran reliever will see what his strong campaign as fill-in closer can earn him on the open market.

Soriano, 32, opted out of the final year of his contract with New York, turning down the $14 million left on his deal to pursue a better offer. The Yankees can make Soriano a one-year qualifying offer of $13.3 million in addition to his $1.5 million buyout, but they will likely wait to determine the status of the closer he replaced before making that call.

Rivera spent nearly the entire season rehabbing from the torn ACL he suffered while shagging fly balls on May 3. At the time, he pledged his intention to return in 2013, but in recent months, the 42-year-old has said he may decide to retire.

“He wasn’t certain on what he is going to do,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week (via ESPN New York).

Rivera’s ERA steadily rose from a career-low 1.40 in 2008 to 1.91 in 2011, but he still managed 44 saves and his 12th all-star selection.

Yankees president Randy Levine told’s Jon Heyman that he was “not surprised” by Soriano’s decision to opt out. “We really like Raffy,” Levine said. “But [Soriano’s agent] Scott Boras told the player he could get $60 million for four years. Let’s see if he can do that. That would make it understandable why he would opt out. I wish Sori well.”

Boras disputed the claim that he provided a specific number to Soriano, telling Heyman, “I never make promises as to what the free-agent market might bear.”

Soriano converted 42 of 45 save chances and posted a 2.26 ERA with a 9.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was the second time in three seasons — he was Rivera’s set-up man in 2011 — that he saved more than 40 games.

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