The Market For Rafael Soriano

While a handful of arguably inferior free-agent relievers signed surprisingly hefty three-year contracts this offseason, the market for closer Rafael Soriano has been conspicuously quiet.

Joaquin Benoit, Scott Downs and Matt Guerrier inked three-year pacts with the Tigers, Angels and Dodgers, respectively, and it begs the questions of with which team and on what terms Soriano will sign.

Soriano is the second-best remaining free agent on the market, and the Halos, Yankees and Orioles remain potential suitors, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTR. Soriano is seemingly in line for a big pay day, but the market for free-agent relievers is inflated this offseason, and Soriano's status as a Type A free agent is an additional deterrent for would-be suitors.

The Angels have invested a lot in their bullpen this offseason, having already signed Hisanori Takahashi and Downs. The Halos' first-round draft pick is protected, so they'd only be forfeiting it to the Rays, but they'd be committing a lot of money to their relief corps if they were to sign Soriano. To boot, Angels GM Tony Reagins said that he was done adding to the bullpen upon signing Downs. In a Soriano poll we conducted Dec. 11, 26 percent of voters thought that he'd end up with the Angels.

The Yankees seem like a logical fit for Soriano, but most reports indicate they're not especially interested. Soriano, along with Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain, would give the Yanks a fearsome late-innings trio, or he could free up Chamberlain to rejoin their spotty starting rotation. It'd be a steep price to pay for a set-up man, and Soriano presumably wants to close (that will serve him well in his next contract negotiations), but the Yankees should never be dismissed — especially after they missed out on Cliff Lee earlier this offseason.

The Orioles could use a closer, but are they inclined to invest so heavily in a reliever when they are still probably a year or two away from seriously contending? Unless the market completely drops out on Soriano, this seems unlikely.

Soriano has already declined the Rays' aribtration offer, but he could always re-sign with them. However, Tampa Bay appears interested in Brian Fuentes, who is seeking a multiyear deal at $5MM per year.

Of course, Soriano could always sign a one-year deal and try his hand in free agency again in 2011-12, but that is an especially risky strategy for relievers, given the tendency for their year-to-year performances to fluctuate.

Something has to give here, and as Tim Dierkes speculated (with respect to Fuentes), there appears to be a buyer's market taking shape.


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