Rafael Soriano Rumors

NL Central Notes: Bryant, Soriano, Gomez, Lackey

While some have suggested that the Cubs preferred Mark Appel to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, scouting director Jason McLeod explains to Phil Rogers of MLB.com that that isn’t the case; the Cubs only planned to select Appel if the Astros selected Bryant with the No. 1 overall pick that season. Rogers spoke with McLeod and cross-checker Sam Hughes about the decision to draft Bryant and how he moved up the Cubs’ draft board with a strong performance in his junior year at San Diego. McLeod admitted that the Cubs had concerns about Bryant’s hit tool, but Hughes went to bat strongly for Bryant after watching him and other top draft bats, including Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Most pundits expected the pitching-hungry Cubs to select on of Appel or Jon Gray — whichever the Astros didn’t draft — but McLeod said the Cubs preferred to take a volume approach to pitching rather than select one of the top arms. “History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the Draft,” said McLeod. With Bryant’s debut nearing, Rogers notes that perhaps one of the best decisions under the Cubs’ new front office has been defying the widely expected decision to select a pitcher in favor of Bryant’s bat.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that despite the team’s bullpen issues, he hasn’t reached out to agent Scott Boras about Rafael Soriano, and Boras hasn’t contacted the Reds about Soriano (Twitter link). Jocketty feels that Soriano would be too expensive, according to Fay. While Soriano may not be in the mix, the Reds certainly need to pursue some form of upgrade. Kevin Gregg has allowed runs in each of his four outings (two runs in three and one in another), and the team’s collective 4.55 ERA is the fifth-highest in baseball. The group’s FIP is even worse, as no team sports a worse mark than Cincinnati’s 5.10.
  • Carlos Gomez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a small defect or tear in his right hamstring, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He has already received a cortisone shot. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that Gomez was back in Milwaukee for an MRI after feeling a “pop” while running to first base in the ninth inning of last night’s game. The Brewers will need to make a roster move in order to replace Gomez, and as McCalvy notes, Shane Peterson is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster that is not in the Majors.
  • Cardinals right-hander John Lackey has every intention of playing in 2015, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I wouldn’t be pitching this year if I didn’t plan on pitching next year,” Lackey told Nightengale. The veteran Lackey is, of course, playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of a clause in his previous five-year, $82.5MM pact with the Red Sox that added an additional year at that rate in the event of a significant elbow injury. (Lackey had Tommy John surgery midway through that deal.) The Redbirds acquired him from the BoSox last year in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.

Cafardo’s Latest: Lester, Giants, Ross, Tulo, Soriano

The Cubs aren’t concerned with Jon Lester‘s issues throwing to first base, writes the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo in his weekly Sunday Notes column. “I think it’s being a little overplayed right now, quite frankly,” said manager Joe Maddon to Cafardo. “…I’d much prefer he worries more about getting his fastball where he wants and his cutter where he wants and all the normal pitching things. … I don’t want to make this an issue, because it’s not for me at all.” Still, Cafardo notes, it is an issue that the Red Sox worked to correct for years with little success. The Cardinals exploited the issue in Lester’s first outing by swiping four bases against him, but as Cafardo notes, not every team will go that route. One AL scout told Cafardo: “I always included in my reports about the throwing, but our team chose not to do anything about it.”

Here’s more from Cafardo’s column…

  • Newly minted Giants GM Bobby Evans tells Cafardo that he doesn’t envision his team pursuing another starting pitcher despite early injuries to Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. The Giants feel that Peavy, who avoided the DL and is slated to pitch today, is healthy. The team is also not anticipating that Cain’s elbow injury, which did require a trip to the 15-day DL, will be a major issue.
  • Cody Ross was recently released by the D-Backs and signed with the A’s, and Cafardo looks back on Ross’ best season — his 2012 campaign with the Red Sox — and notes that Boston offered Ross a two-year deal to remain with the team. Ross, however, found a three-year, $26MM contract in Arizona. Injuries turned that deal into a bust for the Snakes, but Ross will hope to reestablish himself in green and gold.
  • The Rockies will likely have plenty of suitors for Troy Tulowitzki this summer if they slide to the cellar of the NL West, but one AL GM tells Cafardo that it’s difficult to envision a trade: “There would be a lot of work to get that done. The money remaining on his salary [$110 million] and the player acquisition cost. Not as easy as it seems. The Rockies need to get a ton for him and I doubt they’ll pick up the money.”
  • Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Tigers have been monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts, and Cafardo hears the same, adding that it “wouldn’t be shocking” if Detroit pulled the trigger on a deal.
  • Much like the Giants, the Twins have taken a hit to their rotation early in the year following Ervin Santana‘s suspension and Ricky Nolasco‘s injury, but after talking with their front office personnel, Cafardo gets the impression that they’ll give opportunities to young starters rather than pursue an established upgrade. Trevor May gets the first crack, but Cafardo lists Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios as other candidates.
  • The Dodgers are still “all ears” about potential Andre Ethier trades and are willing to eat some of the $56MM on the three years remaining on his contract, but there have been no bites to this point.

Heyman’s Latest: Kimbrel, Howard, Perez, Salty, Soriano, Cueto

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has penned a lengthy column that’s chock full of Hot Stove related items as the season gets underway. First and foremost, he chronicles the Braves‘ trade of Craig Kimbrel at length. Heyman spoke to president of baseball ops John Hart, who candidly told Heyman that the team took a hard line of refusing to trade Kimbrel unless Melvin Upton Jr. was involved in the deal. “We were not going to separate Kimbrel and trade him by himself,” Hart told Heyman. Atlanta reached out to the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers and Padres, among others, this winter in an effort to move Upton, and despite the Dodgers’ bullpen needs, they weren’t willing to add Upton’s contract to that of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, having already shed Matt Kemp‘s contract. The Padres trade didn’t heat up until about four days before it was agreed upon, Heyman writes, with Hart even remaining in Orlando to finish negotiations rather than fly with the team to Miami at the end of Spring Training. Hart credited assistant GM John Coppolella for doing much of the legwork and his creativity in getting the trade finalized.

More highlights from Heyman’s article (though the entire piece is well worth your time)…

  • While some reports late in Spring Training indicated that the Phillies would be willing to eat up to $50MM of the remaining $60MM on Ryan Howard‘s contract, two GMs tell Heyman they hadn’t heard that figure. One of those GMs was of the belief that the Phillies’ top offer was to pay about $35MM, which, Heyman speculates, may have been a large reason that the Royals opted to sign Kendrys Morales for two years and $17MM rather than pursue a Howard trade.
  • Speaking of the Royals, Heyman hears that the team is open to pursuing a second extension with catcher Salvador Perez and would be happy to make him a Royal for life. Heyman notes that some in the organization even have some sympathy for Perez, whose five-year, $7MM contract is widely considered the most team-friendly deal in all of baseball. Perez’s deal contains three startlingly low club options valued at $3.75MM, $5MM and $6MM for the 2017-19 seasons — two of which would have been free-agent seasons beginning at the age of 28.
  • The Marlins tried to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter after the catcher’s first season on a three-year, $21MM pact was a struggle, but his salary was too great a deterrent. The Marlins presumably feel that top prospect J.T. Realmuto could step into the catcher’s role in the not-too-distant future.
  • The Tigers are believed to be at least monitoring Rafael Soriano‘s workouts at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Miami, per Heyman. However, Soriano has seen his stock suffer not only due to ineffective innings late int he 2014 season but also due to perceptions about his personality and negative clubhouse impact. At least one club that was taking a hard look at late-inning relievers ruled out Soriano entirely due to that perception, Heyman reports.
  • The Reds felt the odds of extending Johnny Cueto prior to Opening Day were so slim that it’s not even clear if they made a formal offer, writes Heyman. Cueto is seeking a figure in the range of $200MM following Max Scherzer‘s mammoth contract this offseason, he adds. Heyman also opines that David Price would probably be selling himself short if he took much less than $200MM from the Tigers at this point as well.
  • Anecdotally, Heyman tells the story of how Cody Ross‘ career began when he was sold to the Marlins from the Reds in exchange for “cash considerations” of precisely one dollar. Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky spoke to Heyman about the deal, explaining that they didn’t have room on the Cincinnati roster back in ’06 but genuinely wanted to get Ross into the best possible position to have a chance at a Major League roster spot. Ross has gone on to earn more than $52MM in the game of baseball.


Quick Hits: Soriano, Astros, Wandy, Hamilton

Rafael Soriano is talking with multiple teams at the moment but doesn’t appear close to signing, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter).  Soriano is still looking for a team as Opening Day approaches despite a largely successful season with the Nationals in 2014.  Some scouts felt, however, that his stuff deteriorated late in the season, and Soriano did indeed lose his grip on the closer’s role in September. The last team connected to Soriano was the Twins, though team officials have since downplayed their interest.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • The Astros are looking to add another starting pitcher, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.
  • Also from Heyman, he opines that the recently-released Wandy Rodriguez could be of interest to the Phillies.  Rodriguez almost joined the Phils earlier this winter but failed a physical, which led him to sign with the Braves instead.
  • While the relationship between Josh Hamilton and the Angels seems strained at best, the two sides “like it or not…are stuck with each other,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Hamilton’s big contract, lack of production and off-the-field issues make him virtually impossible to trade, while Hamilton will likely have to accept a reduced role when he returns to the club.
  • The Nationals are facing the most pressure of any team in baseball this season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes in his rundown of the top 12 teams who have a particularly big need for strong results in 2015.

Twins Have Inquired On Rafael Soriano

SATURDAY: A Twins official says the team has very limited interest in Soriano and “might” watch him pitch if he were to hold a workout, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets.

FRIDAY: The Twins have inquired about watching free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano throw, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter). Minnesota is known to be looking for bullpen help, and Soriano is the most established relief arm left on the open market. It’s possible, Wolfson notes, that they’ve already seen him throw in Miami.

Soriano, 35, is a client of Scott Boras and the lone remaining player from MLBTR’s list of Top 50 free agents that is yet unsigned this winter. At first glance, his 2014 numbers might make the fact that he remains a free agent surprising. He did, after all, work to a 3.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 32 saves with the Nationals.

Soriano did also benefit from the second-lowest homer-to-flyball ratio of his career, however, and he lost the handle on the closer’s gig in September. Over Soriano’s final 18 appearances last year, he yielded 13 runs in 16 2/3 innings for a 7.02 ERA. Those struggles likely played a big role in the somewhat tepid market for Soriano this offseason, as scouts told ESPN’s Buster Olney last month that they felt the veteran closer’s stuff evaporated late in the year.

Still, it’s not entirely surprising to see Minnesota inquiring on Soriano. I noted in my Offseason Review of the Twins that it wouldn’t be surprising for Boras to try to sell GM Terry Ryan on Soriano, as closer Glen Perkins was shut down late last year with a forearm injury and has been battling an oblique issue this spring. Beyond Perkins, the Twins lack established bullpen arms. Casey Fien looks to be the top setup option, and lefty Brian Duensing is a lock for the ‘pen as well. Tim Stauffer will probably hold down a spot despite a poor spring, and his former Padres teammate Blaine Boyer looks increasingly likely to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Additionally, it’s possible that Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May or Tommy Milone, each of whom is fighting for the fifth starter’s role, could end up in the ‘pen as well. Other options such as Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin have already been optioned, though Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is still in the mix for a spot and may yet make the club to open the season.


East Notes: Swihart, Howard, Soriano

The Red Sox announced this morning that they’ve optioned catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart, of course, has attracted attention as a key name in Cole Hamels trade rumors, although the Red Sox have so far been unwilling to part with him. It comes as no surprise that he’ll evidently start the season in Pawtucket — he’s only played 18 games at the Triple-A level, and Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are set to begin the season as the Red Sox’ catchers. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • With the Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50MM of the $60MM remaining on Ryan Howard‘s contract, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee examines which AL teams might have a use for Howard. He suggests the Indians and Blue Jays might be the best fits, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense for either team to pay $10MM.
  • Free-agent closer Rafael Soriano has been working out in the Dominican, but he will soon stop by the Boras Sport Training Institute at St. Thomas University in Florida, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (The institute hosted Boras clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales while those players when through protracted free-agent periods last year, Heyman notes.) Soriano could then host a workout for interested teams. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, who will probably have Aaron Sanchez head from the bullpen to the rotation to replace the injured Marcus Stroman, could be the best fit for Soriano, who remains a free agent deep into Spring Training.

Quick Hits: Stadium Funding, Service Time, Soriano, Olivera

We’ve discussed recently the ways in which international politics can influence baseball’s player market, and now there’s an important example of domestic politics to consider. As USA Today’s Elaine Povich reports, President Obama’s new federal budget proposal contains a provision that would preclude states and municipalities from issuing tax-exempt bonds as a means of financing professional sports stadiums, including ballparks. This is an issue with widespread implications that go well beyond the game of baseball, of course, but within the MLB (and MiLB) world, the measure could cut off a source for future revenue streams. Taxpayer subsidies of various kinds fueled the last (and still-ongoing) round of ballpark building, which along with TV revenue has helped to drive player spending.

Here are some more notes from around the game:

  • MLBTR readers are no strangers to the idea of service time considerations, which last year focused on players like George Springer of the Astros and Gregory Polanco of the Pirates. Now, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant is squarely at issue, and Mike Petriello of Fangraphs opines that the league needs to fix what he calls a broken system. Coming up with a workable (and agreeable) solution is the primary roadblock here, of course. Petriello suggests a change in rules: rather than requiring 172 days of service over a season to reach one full year for purposes of determining free agent eligibility, which allows teams to keep prospects down for a short time to begin the year in order to add a full season of future control, his system would allow a player to accumulate a year of service if they reach 100 days (or some similar number) of MLB active roster time in a given season. That would largely keep the present considerations intact, of course, but would shift the math in favor of calling up players who are truly ready to provide value at the big league level. As Petriello notes, this would function as an obvious boon to players, who would reach free agency sooner, likely requiring significant concessions from the union in other areas. Union chief Tony Clark has indicated that he expects negotiations on the next CBA to ramp up in early 2016, the year in which the present agreement will expire.
  • As we’ve discussed previously, former Nationals closer Rafael Soriano is the most eligible free agent remaining. August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs explores the reasons for his continued availability, explaining that Soriano’s tendency to give up hard contact in the second half — and related questions about his stuff — have hurt his value. Soriano still looks to be a capable big league reliever, of course, and it could be that agent Scott Boras is taking things down to the wire because he is confident in the still-existing market demand, which figures only to increase as injuries arise.
  • Hector Olivera remains the most interesting free agent, of course, though he has only been officially available for less than two weeks to this point. Ben Badler of Baseball America provides an updated scouting report, noting that Olivera’s bat still looks strong but that there are some questions about his range and arm in the infield. While much of this ground has been covered before, the report is well worth a look as it compiles the most recent opinions. For what it’s worth, in a series of polls, MLBTR readers have predicted that Olivera will land a guarantee in the $40MM to $50MM range, with the Braves, Padres, and Dodgers being the likeliest landing spots.

NL Notes: Pence, Marlins, Soriano, Tomas, Lopez

Hunter Pence will be out six to eight weeks after a Corey Black fastball broke his arm in yesterday’s Cactus League contest against the Cubs. However, the Giants are expected to look at their in-house options to replace Pence while he is on the shelf, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio. That’s not necessarily a huge surprise, considering the fact that six to eight weeks could mean that Pence will miss only a few weeks of in-season action. ESPN’s Buster Olney wondered (on Twitter) last night if the Giants might use Buster Posey at first base more, with Brandon Belt sliding into the outfield, given the team’s need for power.

More notes from around the Senior Circuit…

  • The Marlins missed out on James Shields and Francisco Rodriguez late in the offseason, but the money that would have been allocated to that pair of arms could be reinvested in trade acquisitions midseason, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. President of baseball operations Michael Hill says that owner Jeffrey Loria has made it “abundantly clear” that he will provide the Marlins’ front office with the resources necessary to make trades, should an area of need arise.
  • Frisaro also reports that despite the fact that the Marlins were clearly in the market for a bullpen upgrade (as evidenced by their pursuit of K-Rod), they don’t have interest in free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano.
  • Yasmany Tomas has looked comfortable in early auditions at third base, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. He hasn’t been perfect, particularly with his throws, but if Tomas can iron out the kinks at the hot corner, it would keep the D-Backs‘ outfield logjam from getting out of hand. As it stands, Arizona has David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, Cody Ross, Ender Inciarte and Mark Trumbo all vying for time, and adding Tomas to that mix would further complicate matters. Regardless, it’s possible, in my eyes, that we see Arizona move one of its outfield options later this spring, although Peralta and Inciarte do have minor league options remaining.
  • Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris has some brief video of another highly regarded Cuban inked by the D-Backs this offseason: Yoan Lopez. Sarris captures just a couple of pitches, but his colleague, Kiley McDaniel, provides a more complete breakdown of Lopez in a brief scouting report. Per McDaniel, Lopez has good arm speed on a 92 to 95 mph fastball to go along with an above-average slider and an average changeup. However, the 21-year-old also has some control issues and is likely headed to the minors to begin his career here.

Looking At Landing Spots For Rafael Soriano

The last man standing on Tim Dierkes’s Top Fifty Free Agent list is reliever Rafael Soriano. I predicted that he would land two years and $12MM before the offseason started, though I noted that there was a downside scenario where he could earn less. (Check that link for a full write-up of Soriano’s free agent case.)

With pitchers and catchers already reporting around the game, it is even more difficult now to peg the contract — all the more so with a report that some scouts felt his stuff went downhill late last year. The similarly-situated Rodriguez just got $13MM over two years, so there’s still some money to be spent. But that came from the Brewers, perhaps the last team that was intent on making an investment in the back of the bullpen.

We haven’t heard much on Soriano’s market all offseason, and even more recent reports have focused on him as a possible backup option to Rodriguez. While there are strong arguments against all the teams listed below, they seem at least the most hypothetically plausible.

Blue Jays – The front office has heavily downplayed the possibility of a big league deal with a reliever, but the closer role remains open and the club has at least considered going after Soriano.

DodgersKenley Jansen is out for a while and the overall relief corps is not that exciting, but the team just signed Dustin McGowan and preliminary reports of possible interest in Soriano have been contested.

Marlins – They are said not to be likely suitors, but did reportedly make a multi-year offer to K-Rod so obviously have some free cash that could be put into the pen.

OriolesZach Britton is left-handed and only has half a year of success in the ninth; Dan Duquette has shown a predilection for jumping on late-market deals.

Rangers – After burning through an unbelievable number of arms last year, Texas is leaning on a relatively recent TJ patient in Neftali Feliz — to say nothing of the less-established arms in camp.

Rockies – With John Axford already joining the fold on a minor league deal as a supplement to LaTroy Hawkins, it doesn’t seem likely, but Colorado could look to make a minor splash if the price is right.

Tigers – Detroit may make eminent sense or none at all, depending on one’s perspective; I find it unlikely but not unimaginable after the signing of Joba Chamberlain.

TwinsGlen Perkins could use some back-up after late-2014 elbow issues, and even if he’s healthy he anchors an otherwise uninspiring unit.

Other – There are other major league teams, as you may know, and all are free to sign Soriano. With plenty of earnings already in his pocket, might Soriano wait for an injury need to open the door to a more significant role?

We may as well take a poll while we’re at it. Which of the above seems most plausible to you?


Latest On The Marlins’ Bullpen Search

Even though Francisco Rodriguez is now off the market, the Marlins aren’t likely to pursue Rafael Soriano or Phil Coke on Major League contracts, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports.  The Fish may be done with their bullpen shopping altogether, Frisaro writes, as they’re happy with the number of power arms they already have in camp and the money they intended to spend on Rodriguez could now be saved for in-season upgrades, if necessary.

As previously reported, the Fish had some interest in Coke if he was willing to take a minor league deal.  The lefty has reportedly received minor league offers from multiple teams, however, so the Marlins would have competition if Coke were to give up his search for a big league contract.

As for Soriano, he’s never been linked to the Marlins on the rumor mill this season, despite the fact that he and Rodriguez (a known Miami target) share some on-paper similarities as veteran relievers with closing experience.  The Marlins already have a closer in Steve Cishek but, as Frisaro notes, the team was looking for someone to handle the ninth on days when Cishek wasn’t available.

Despite some concerns from scouts about Soriano’s stuff, the veteran reliever has still drawn some interest this offseason.  Soriano has been linked to the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Rockies and Brewers in rumors, though the latter two clubs have since addressed their bullpen needs.