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Rafael Soriano Rumors
In late February, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers which team would sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano, and a bit more than a quarter of you thought he would end up with the Blue Jays. Almost three months later, the Scott Boras client remains a free agent, so now seems like a good time to revisit the question.
Near the beginning of the season, the Twins and Tigers each reportedly showed at least some interest, although perhaps not much. The Reds then ruled themselves out as candidates to sign Soriano. Later, the Mariners reportedly had at least some contact with Soriano. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman also suggested that the Indians, Dodgers and Pirates might also be possibilities, although those seemed speculative. It seems unlikely that the Dodgers would pursue Soriano now given how good their bullpen has been, and the Pirates don’t seem particularly likely given their strong interest in ground-ball pitchers. The Marlins were the next team to be connected to Soriano, although early last week it emerged that they had lost interest. By late last week, he’d been connected to the Cubs.
More speculatively, the Padres are a potential contender with a struggling bullpen, although they’re set at closer and could prefer the talent they have on hand. The Red Sox are in a somewhat similar boat, although calling them a “potential contender” might strike some of their fans as off base, even though they aren’t yet out of contention. The Diamondbacks are near .500 and recently bumped Addison Reed from their closer role. The Rangers also have an unsettled closer situation and are on the fringes of the AL Wild Card race at this early point in the season, although Shawn Tolleson got two saves this week and has pitched well all year, suggesting he might fit well at closer. The Rockies have a poorly performing bullpen and might be convinced to sign Soriano if he were cheap enough, but are far enough out of contention that the upside of such a move would be limited.
The number of fits is unclear, then, and much could depend upon Soriano’s cost. There’s also the issue of his likely performance — the Marlins reportedly backed away because they felt Soriano wasn’t an upgrade. That might sound wrong for a pitcher who’s had 107 saves total over the past three seasons, but Soriano is 35 and posted a 6.48 ERA in the second half last season.
So who will ultimately sign Soriano?
Seeking to upgrade a relief corps that has struggled at times this season, the Cubs are among the teams to have kicked the tires on free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano, reports Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. Last week, Jon Heyman reported that the Cubs “may consider” Soriano at some point down the line.
Soriano, a Scott Boras client is training and facing live hitters in the Dominican Republic at this time, Mooney writes. Boras told reporters yesterday before the Cubs hosted the Padres at Wrigley Field that some teams are seeing him for the second and third time. “I think Soriano could help about 10 teams now,” Boras told reporters. “…Teams are reaching out. We’re pretty close to structuring a deal for him.” The Cubs aren’t quite motivated or desperate enough to pay top dollar for Soriano, Mooney hears.
Still, it’s not difficult to see why the Cubs would have some form of interest in a bullpen upgrade — particularly one that wouldn’t cost the team any prospects. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and lefty Zac Rosscup have all pitched reasonably well this season, but beyond that group, there’s been little stability. Phil Coke has already been designated for assignment. Jason Motte‘s ERA is 5.17, and his peripherals aren’t much more encouraging. Edwin Jackson rattled off six scoreless appearances to open the season, but he’s surrendered five runs in his past 1 2/3 innings (spanning three appearances).
The listed relievers are the only ones who have thrown even 10 innings this season for a Cubs bullpen that has cycled through 12 relief options (13 if you include catcher David Ross throwing an inning of mop-up duty). James Russell has looked solid since re-signing with the Cubs shortly after his release from Atlanta, and the return of Justin Grimm from the disabled list is expected to be a boost. The loss of Neil Ramirez, though, is a blow to the bullpen, and the result of the unit’s collective effort has been a 4.20 ERA.
As Mooney notes, the Cubs have tried to fix the problem by bringing Russell back and designating Coke, and the team traded Welington Castillo to the Mariners in exchange for hard-throwing right-hander Yoervis Medina. That sequence would seem to indicate that the Cubs are indeed trying to upgrade their ‘pen, but the question that remains is whether or not Soriano would be an upgrade.
The Marlins recently expressed interest in Soriano but backed off rather abruptly, with followup reports indicating that their interest dissipated not due to financial reasons, but because evaluators didn’t feel that Soriano was an upgrade over the team’s internal options. Late in the offseason, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that some scouts felt that Soriano’s stuff evaporated late in the season, which was the reason for his drastic decline at season’s end. Though Soriano’s 3.19 ERA and 59-to-19 K/BB ratio in last year’s 62 innings look solid, he wilted in the second half, registering a 6.48 ERA.
The bullpen was one of many Cubs-related issues that Mooney discussed with Jeff Todd in a guest appearance on yesterday’s MLBTR Podcast.
The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.
Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…
- The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
- Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
- Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
- Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
- Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
- It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
- The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
- In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alexi Amarista | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Clay Buchholz | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Didi Gregorius | Hector Rondon | Houston Astros | Jean Segura | Juan Uribe | Kyle Lohse | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Noah Syndergaard | Oakland Athletics | Rafael Soriano | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Scott Kazmir | St. Louis Cardinals | Steven Matz | Troy Tulowitzki | Wilmer Flores | Yunel Escobar
Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the cause of Stephen Strasburg‘s uncharacteristically slow start for the Nationals. As he explains, batters have teed off on Strasburg when he is working out of the stretch. It is impossible to pin down the exact issues, of course, but Sullivan explains that — as pitching coach Steve McCatty believes — lingering side-effects of an offseason ankle injury may still be impacting Strasburg’s mechanics. Obviously, Strasburg is in no danger or need of being replaced in D.C., and he remains an over-scrutinized pitcher. But both player and club obviously have some work to do to get him back on track.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- The Marlins pulled out of their pursuit of free agent reliever Rafael Soriano because of their assessment of his likely impact more than the money involved, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports (Twitter link). Of course, it is nearly impossible to separate talent assessment and cost entirely. After all, Miami presumably wouldn’t hesitate to add Soriano on a league-minimum contract. But the Marlins could well have determined, whether based on scouting him last year or learning more about his current status, that Soriano did not warrant any kind of significant outlay.
- Phillies ace Cole Hamels has turned things around after a slow start, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. The southpaw has allowed just 2.72 earned runs per nine over his last five starts, Zolecki notes, and turned in a nice, nine-strikeout outing last night. All said, Hamels’ trade value remains as robust as ever as the summer draws near.
- After failing to stick as a big league reliever, Phillies righty Phillippe Aumont is impressing as a starter at Triple-A, Zolecki reports. The only remaining piece of the Cliff Lee trade, the 26-year-old had seemed destined to be a disappointment but is showing some life in the upper minors with a 1.36 ERA over 33 innings (7.6 K/9 vs. 3.5 BB/9). “Phillippe told me he’s extremely happy to be back in the rotation,” Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan tells Zolecki. “He looks like it. There’s a tempo to what he’s doing. He used to take forever between pitches. He’s crisp. He has some big misses, but he gets right back in the zone. Seven strong innings today, really. He had an above-average, maybe well above-average fastball. Above-average breaking ball. Two Major League pitches.”
The Marlins are wrapping up their brief pursuit of free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. Miami was said to be exploring the addition of Soriano to shore up the team’s problematic closing situation, but has apparently decided to take another route.
Given the short-lived (but reportedly serious) dalliance between the sides, it would appear that the obvious initial match did not ultimately result in an ability to gain traction on terms. The most recent report indicated that Miami’s interest was contingent on achieving a low price on the veteran.
That makes sense: after all, the team has serviceable internal options, can still hope for a return to form for Steve Cishek, and will always have a chance to pursue a trade if it remains in contention over the summer. Miami has been said from the time it moved Cishek out of the 9th inning to be open to numerous alternatives, and now figures to take its time in sorting out the back of the pen.
Veteran Ryan Doumit, who played last year for the Braves, “considers his playing career over,” according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The 34-year-old switch hitter logged 166 plate appearances last year in Atlanta, slashing just .197/.235/.318. He has had many more productive seasons in his decade in the big leagues, of course, and owns a lifetime .264/.324/.432 batting line. Doumit also spent significant time with the Pirates and Twins after being drafted in the second round of the 1999 amateur draft by Pittsburgh. While it appears that Doumit will not look to make a return to the bigs, the wording of the report suggests that he is not yet prepared to make an official retirement.
Here are some NL East Notes:
- The Marlins‘ interest in Rafael Soriano is tied closely to his cost, according to a Twitter report from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. As things stand, Miami is only willing to bite if it can add him “at a low price,” per the report. It is not terribly surprising to learn that the Fish are not prepared to break the bank at this stage for the veteran righty; as the initial reports of interest suggested, the club is looking at all options to deal with its late-inning relief woes.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he is not currently interested in adding a shortstop,Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. “Nothing has changed,” said Alderson of the team’s current daily deployment of Wilmer Flores. That is not terribly surprising given the timing, of course — to say nothing of the fact that Alderson would not be likely to broadcast any interest he did have — but should at least function to curb any immediate speculation about the possibility of a Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster.
7:15pm: The Marlins are “very much engaged” in negotiations with Soriano, Frisaro now tweets.
That talks seem to have intensified, perhaps, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported tonight that Cishek has been told he’s being removed from the closer’s role (Twitter links). The Marlins will likely give A.J. Ramos the bulk of the closing time in his stead, for now, according to Spencer, though Mike Dunn and Bryan Morris could also see occasional looks. However, if the team is moving on from Cishek as a closing option, adding a more experienced arm wouldn’t be a surprising route.
10:31am: The Marlins have reached out to Rafael Soriano‘s representatives to express interest in the veteran reliever, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. Miami has exchanged some dialogue with agent Scott Boras, per the report, as it weighs its options in the relief corps. Per Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, via Twitter, the sides are not close to a deal at present.
Soriano, of course, remains on the free agent market despite ranking among the game’s fifty best open market players coming into the year (per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). The 35-year-old struggled down the stretch last year, but still finished with 62 innings of 3.19 ERA ball under his belt with 8.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
Spurring the opening of talks with Soriano, of course, are the struggles of closer Steve Cishek. After establishing himself as one of the game’s better late-inning arms in recent years, Cishek has stumbled badly in the early going and appears to be moving out of the 9th inning role.
Miami had previously explored adding a veteran arm to bolster the back of its pen, most notably pursuing Francisco Rodriguez before he signed with the Brewers, so the interest and availability of funds is not a new thing. The club opened the day with a 15-18 record, sitting 5.5 games off the NL East pace, but has been performing much better since a 3-11 start.
Of course, as Frisaro emphasizes, a Soriano signing is just one of several possible avenues the club is considering to drive improvement in its late-inning pitching. There are several internal options both to fill the closer’s role and to otherwise boost the pen. And the club could look at the trade market, possibly revisiting Rodriguez — who is pitching well with Milwaukee — or even taking a look at an intra-division deal for Jonathan Papelbon.
From my perspective, it remains a bit early for the Marlins to make any rash decisions. The club has plausible replacements for Cishek and can still hope he can right the ship. And it is not yet clear whether a significant investment will make sense over the summer. That said, it obviously makes good sense to explore the possibilities with Soriano, particularly if he may be drawn to sign for a somewhat more palatable sum if he has a reasonable expectation of slotting into the 9th inning.
In last week’s win over the Orioles, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez officially passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Of course, his home run record is clouded by his history and the Yankees refusing to pay him his milestone bonuses has arguably become the bigger story.
Many former players have spoken out against current players that have used steroids, like Rodriguez. Former major league first baseman David Segui alleges that a few of those scolding players are PED users themselves.
“What bothers me is the hypocrites,” Segui told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “I see them on TV sometimes criticizing people who took steroids. I say, ‘What a minute . . . maybe the public doesn’t know what you did, but I know what you did.’ Those are the ones that bother me. Just keep your mouth shut.”
Years ago, Segui fessed up to his own PED use, but he refused to turn on fellow players who also used steroids. Here’s more from Cafardo’s Sunday morning column..
- Scott Boras tells Cafardo that he’s getting closer with “a few teams” regarding Rafael Soriano. Late last month it was reported that Twins and Mariners are among the teams interested in Soriano. At the time, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who reported that there were conversations between the M’s and Boras regarding Soriano, also suggested that the Pirates, Indians, and Dodgers could be “logical suitors.” If there is interest for Cleveland and Pittsburgh, one has to wonder if payroll constraints could play a factor.
- A major league source tells Cafardo that teams are already calling on Phillies veteran Aaron Harang and scouting him. One NL scout has been impressed with Harang before and feels that he would be worth a second-level prospect for a contending club. Back in March, MLBTradeRumors spoke with Harang about his experience in free agency and what led him to sign with the Phillies this winter. Harang also told MLBTR that he wasn’t overly concerned about the prospect of being traded midseason by GM Ruben Amaro as the team rebuilds.
- One AL GM feels that it’s just a matter of time before the A’s move left-hander Scott Kazmir. “Tick, tick, tick,” the GM said when asked if he thinks Kazmir might be moved before the deadline. “Sure. If Oakland can’t hang in, Billy [Beane] will flip him for prospects. He’s actually an interesting name. All you hear about is [David] Price, [Jordan] Zimmermann, [Johnny] Cueto, but that’s a pretty good name right there.” Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the A’s aren’t yet thinking about trading Kazmir as they still haven’t given up on their hopes of contending. In last place at 12-20 heading into today’s game against the Mariners, I’d imagine that the A’s will have to give some serious thought to moving the 31-year-old if things don’t turn around quickly.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe credits Phillies GM Ruben Amaro for his offseason signing of Aaron Harang. The veteran right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball through the first month of the season after coming to Philly on an affordable one-year, $5MM deal (Harang spoke with MLBTR last month about joining the Phillies). While it’s been tough for Amaro to find the right deal for Cole Hamels, a few more good starts may net him a prospect for Harang. Here’s more from today’s column..
- There have been no calls on Hamels regarding a trade since the last week of March, a Phillies source tells Cafardo. Recently, Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote that rival evaluators believe the pitcher wants out of Philadelphia. Through four starts this season, Hamels has pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9.
- Rafael Soriano has returned to the Dominican Republic for workouts as he awaits an MLB opportunity. We learned yesterday that the Twins are among the teams interested in Soriano. The Tigers and Blue Jays would also make sense as potential landing spots for the reliever. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently reported that there has been contact between agent Scott Boras and the Mariners regarding Soriano and the Pirates, Indians, and Dodgers could be “logical suitors.”
- The Red Sox have received kudos from around baseball for signing right-hander Alexi Ogando as a free agent and many teams are now kicking themselves over not signing him. “They’ve used him so well at the beginning of the season, biting off as much as he can chew and slowly but surely increasing to high-leverage situations,” said one National League scout. “He’s got some real action on his fastball and electric stuff at times. He’ll occasionally leave a pitch over the plate, but this is like a bonus guy. A lot of teams missed the boat and the Red Sox were one of the few teams willing to offer a major league deal.”
- When asked if he’d ever want to be a manager, Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek told Cafardo, “Maybe someday. Not right now.” Varitek wants to watch his kids grow up before possibly pursuing such a role.
Here’s the latest from around the league:
- Commissioner Rob Manfred would prefer for the Athletics to remain in Oakland, writes Bill Shaiken of the LA Times. The A’s are currently waiting to learn if the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will remain in the city or move to Los Angeles. Manfried also suggested that public financing would be helpful. “We want to remain loyal to [small market fans], but those markets also have to participate in providing the kind of facilities necessary to keep a Major League Baseball team.
- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez won’t let the club’s slow start affect his decision to retire, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Milwaukee is quickly falling out of contention in the tough NL Central. Ramirez is off to a slow start, but you have to imagine he’ll be a trade candidate this summer. Assuming he’s dealt, he’ll have an opportunity to finish his career with a contender – it just probably won’t be the Brewers.
- The Twins remain among the teams interested in free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Wolfson believes the fit is much better with the Tigers and Blue Jays. While Minnesota could definitely use some relief reinforcements, the club doesn’t figure to contend this season. As such, they probably view Soriano as a piece they could trade at the deadline.