NEW YORK -- Jeff Nelson was in uniform every night in 1996 as Mariano Rivera and John Wetteland formed a lethal late-inning combination, bringing the Yankees all the way to a World Series title.

It was a tag team that lasted only one season, as Rivera then accepted the closer's role that he has never left. But now that the Yankees have added Rafael Soriano as a setup man, they may own their best shutdown bullpen since '96.

"I think it gives them the best potential to have it, absolutely," said Nelson, who is now a baseball analyst for MLB.com. "Adding Soriano is huge. I really think it gives them something that they haven't had in a long, long time.

"You bring in a guy that led the league in saves last year, and I think it gives them a lot of good options. With the inability to have a solid starting rotation, it definitely helps out to have a solid bullpen. I think that's what they have."

In 1996, Wetteland saved 43 games and Rivera posted a 2.09 ERA in 61 appearances. Adding Soriano (45 saves, 1.73 ERA in 2010) with Rivera (33 saves, 1.80 ERA in '10) could shorten games for today's Bombers the way it did for that championship club.

Spending on saves
Rafael Soriano's three-year contract with the Yankees has an annual salary that places him fifth on the all-time list for relievers, shown in millions. Soriano is the highest-paid primarily non-closer, who are bolded below.
Rank Player Salary** Years
1 Mariano Rivera 15 2011-12
2 Brad Lidge 12.5 2009-11
3 Francisco Rodriguez 12.33 2009-11
4 Joe Nathan 11.75 2008-11
5 Rafael Soriano 11.66 2011-13
6 Francisco Cordero 11.5 2008-11
7 Billy Wagner 10.75 2006-09
8 Kerry Wood 10.25 2009-10
9 B.J. Ryan 9.4 2006-10
10 Jonathan Papelbon 9.35 2010
11 Brian Fuentes 8.75 2009-10
12 Trevor Hoffman 8 2010
13 Bobby Jenks 7.5 2010
14 Jose Valverde 7 2010-11
15 Danys Baez 6.33 2007-09
16 Trevor Hoffman 6 2009
16 Mike Gonzalez 6 2010-11
17 Bobby Jenks 5.6 2009
18 Octavio Dotel 5.5 2008-09
18 Fernando Rodney 5.5 2010-11
18 Joaquin Benoit 5.5 2011-13
18 Jonathan Broxton 5.5 2010-11