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."
As part of the deal, the Angels sent $1 million to Kansas City. Los Angeles had exercised its $13 million option on Santana's contract for next season before trading him to the Royals.
The Royals 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.
Cincinnati signed Ludwick to a one-year deal for 2012 that included a $2 million base salary, and he earned an additional $350,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances. Although the Reds are interested in keeping him, Ludwick decided to see what kind of deal he can get on the open market.
Madson needed reconstructive elbow surgery after tearing a ligament during spring training and missed the entire season. Aroldis Chapman moved into the role and saved 38 games in 43 chances.
Madson had a $6 million salary this year, of which $2 million was deferred until Thursday and another $2 million until Nov. 1, 2013. He agreed to that deal in January after a $44 million, four-year deal to stay with the Philadelphia Phillies collapsed last November.
Madson would have made $11 million next year under the mutual option. Instead, he got a $2.5 million buyout. The Reds weren't going to exercise the 2013 option. They've expressed an interest in signing him to a less-expensive deal and giving him a chance to continue his recovery.
The wild-card Baltimore Orioles exercised their $1 million option on right-handed reliever Luis Ayala but declined an $11 million option on first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Reynolds, who hit .221 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs in 135 games, gets a $500,000 buyout and is eligible for salary arbitration.
The Cleveland Indians exercised their $5.75 million option on pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Also, the team declined its options on designated hitter Travis Hafner ($13 million) and starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez ($6 million), formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up their option on 25-year-old third baseman Pedro Alvarez ($700,000) and parted ways with catcher Rod Barajas, who had a $3.5 million option. The Pirates have another $700,000 option on Alvarez for 2014.
Pittsburgh also released reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who posted an 8.64 ERA in nine appearances.
In Toronto, the Blue Jays exercised their $3 million option on left-handed reliever Darren Oliver and signed outfielder Rajai Davis to a one-year, $2.5 million contract after declining the option on his previous two-year deal.
Davis hit .257 with 24 doubles, eight home runs, 43 RBIs and 46 stolen bases this year. The Blue Jays held a $3 million option for 2013 with a $500,000 buyout.
Tigers utility man Don Kelly and Yankees infielder Casey McGehee elected free agency rather than accept minor league assignments.