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Rafael Soriano Rumors
The Nationals gave Rafael Soriano $28MM (half of it deferred) over two years and sacrificed a draft choice to install him at the back of the pen of one of the league’s most talented rosters. Though he was a reasonably productive pitcher, however, Soriano was not the force that Washington had hoped and he ultimately ceded his closer’s role late in 2014. Now entering his age-35 season, the Scott Boras client will presumably look to score another multi-year deal, but faces market competition in maximizing his dollars.
Soriano actually had a stronger overall campaign in his second year in D.C. In particular, he restored his strikeout rate to the mid-8 K/9 level that he had generally maintained over his previous several seasons, after ending 2013 with 6.9 K/9 – his lowest mark by far since his rookie year. While Soriano posted near-identical earned run marks in each of his two seasons with the Nationals (3.11 and 3.19, respectively), he seems to have re-learned to induce whiffs in spite of his reduced fastball velocity. In particular, Soriano seems to have restored some confidence in his slider after it went missing in 2013, increasing its usage and effectiveness. All of those factors would, it seems, bode well moving forward.
Buttressing his good-but-not-great recent production level is its place in the overall context of his career. Since 2006, the veteran has recorded at least 60 innings in seven of nine campaigns. And he has only concluded a season with an ERA higher than last year’s 3.19 mark once: his injury-shortened 2011. While he probably no longer offers the hope of double-digit strikeouts per nine innings, Soriano seems a good bet to deliver a full load of solid innings.
And whatever one thinks of the merit of valuing pitchers based on saves and the like, Soriano’s broad experience is a feather in his cap. He now owns 207 career saves, meaning that he has been exposed to a ton of high-leverage situations. And without suggesting anything about its predictive value, it is worth noting that Soriano has a long record of positive “clutch” scores (per Fangraphs). That experience has its value, particularly for a team that expects to contend and wants a veteran presence in the pen.
Teams intrigued by that consistency will surely also notice that Soriano has been fairly good against lefties: for his career, he has held them to a .234/.309/.395 line. Even better, though he was not as dominant against righties as he had been at times in the past, Soriano showed in 2014 that he can be deployed confidently against hitters of both sides. In fact, facing a nearly even number of left-handed and right-handed bats, Soriano held the former to a .273 wOBA (against a .297 mark from righties).
It is not terribly surprising that Soriano has seen some decline in his fastball velocity, but it nevertheless must be accounted for. He has maintained his heater in the 91+ mph range over the last two seasons, after sitting between 92 and 93 earlier in his career. He has seemingly compensated for that fact by increasingly utilizing a mix of four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastballs, though pitch-recognition mechanisms Baseball Info Solutions and Pitch F/X disagree as to his actual mix amongst those three offerings. But the bottom line is that that Soriano’s days of rearing back and throwing it by hitters are probably over. Meanwhile, he has increased his slider velocity to over 84 mph, the highest level of his career, decreasing further the separation for his primary offspeed offering.
One additional factor to consider is Soriano’s tendency to induce a significant number of fly balls, which has spiked back toward the well-above-average rates he maintained earlier in his career. In 2014, Soriano generated only a 31.6% groundball rate while permitting flies at a 49.1% clip. Though a meager 4.8% HR/FB kept the damage to a minimum, Soriano’s career mark sits at nearly twice that level. A few more balls leaving the yard could put a big dent in Soriano’s bottom-line productivity.
It bears mentioning that Soriano’s late-season struggles led to a demotion from the closer’s role — in part due to his inability to keep the ball down — which certainly does not help with perception as he enters the market. And that move was not without statistical basis: Soriano posted a 6.48 second-half ERA after marking his first 37 innings with an impressive 0.97 mark. And those numbers, in turn, had their source in Soriano’s declining peripherals: his strikeout percentage dropped significantly (26.7% to 19.7%) while his rate of line drives allowed went up (14.8% to 24.1%).
Finally, while Soriano has been healthy of late, he does have a deeper injury history that could come into play in a multi-year scenario. Soriano underwent Tommy John surgery early in 2004, returning late in 2005 after a long recovery. Since, he has seen flareups from time to time and even underwent an ulnar nerve transposition and bone spur procedure on his right elbow back in 2008. Most recently, he missed 66 games in 2011 for inflammation. Though his overall recent health has been good, there has to be at least some consideration for the fact that Soriano has a decade or so of mileage on his replacement UCL.
Soriano is married and has two children. The Dominican native also enjoys a special relationship with his mother, with whom he speaks by phone twice a day, per an interesting profile from James Wagner of the Washington Post.
Soriano persevered through a poor economic upbringing and early difficulties in his career. His quiet disposition belies a warm personality, according to Wagner. But there is no question that a new club will not be getting a boisterous, rah-rah presence. By the same token, Soriano is generally stoic on the hill and does not (visibly, anyway) seem to be overly affected by pressure situations. Though at times he has had a less-than-stellar clubhouse reputation, Soriano seems not to have left that impression in D.C. even after his demotion from the closer role, according to a recent report from the Post’s Adam Kilgore.
As I explained back in early September, Soriano is one of many similarly situated veteran relievers. Though I said at the time that he was one of the few to have maintained his value coming into the year, that assessment was based in part on his poor 2013 and came before his late-year struggles were fully manifested.
At this point, Soriano looks to face a tough market, with plenty of competition on the supply side. His precise placement is subject to debate, but he probably falls in the same general tier as other veteran arms such as Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, and Casey Janssen.
It is difficult to assign possible landing spots for a sub-elite reliever. But in Soriano’s case, one major factor is his pronounced flyball tendency, which could make him more appealing to a club that plays in a more spacious park while reducing the level of interest from teams with more home run-friendly environments.
Soriano faces a wide range of plausible outcomes, given his warts, the healthy supply of veteran late-inning arms, and the ever-present volatility of a market with so few actors. But he does have a rather extensive track record of finishing off wins, and that can still boost a player’s earning capacity. Though Soriano may have slightly more upside, and perhaps even more downside, I see him landing a two-year, $12MM deal that falls near the bottom of the range of last year’s closer market.
Today is the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner. MLB.com’s Doug Miller chronicles the link between our country’s national anthem and its national pastime from the first time it was sung before a baseball game (May 15, 1862) to the great and not-so-great renditions. From the national anthem to the National League East, here are today’s notes from the division:
- Rafael Soriano is making progress after working on his mechanics, but there is no timetable to reinstall him as the Nationals‘ closer, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted recently Soriano’s $14MM club option for 2015 will not vest and the Nationals are all but certain to decline the option making him an interesting free agent to watch.
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg won’t speak ill of Ryan Howard or suggest a trade would make sense, but he admits a move to first base could be beneficial for Chase Utley, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. “I think playing first base would eliminate a little wear and tear at that position,” Sandberg said. “Whether that’s a consideration or not has yet to be seen.” Gelb suggests a plan for 2015 where Utley is slated to play about 130 games with 100 of them at first base.
- Kyle Kendrick isn’t sure if he made his final home start in a Phillies‘ uniform last night, but it sounds like he’d like to stay put in Philadelphia, if possible. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s out of my control. But if I’m somewhere else, I’ll miss it,” Kendrick told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
- The Mets have shut down left-hander Dana Eveland for the remainder of the season because of elbow inflammation, reports MLB.com’s Tim Healey. The 30-year-old, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, has had a career year with the Mets posting a 2.63 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 30 relief outings (27 1/3 innings).
The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …
- Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
- Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
- Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
- Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
- Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
- Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
- Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
- Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Dan Haren | Jimmy Rollins | Kyuji Fujikawa | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mike Adams | Milwaukee Brewers | Newsstand | Nick Punto | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Rafael Soriano | Rickie Weeks | Scott Downs | Sean Burnett | Washington Nationals
Rafael Soriano needs 32 more games finished to cause his $14MM club option to vest, but the Nationals closer says that vesting option or not, he wants to return to Washington in 2015, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Soriano would need to get up to the 62-finish mark (a career high) to make it, though with the Nats in a tight pennant race, they’ll undoubtedly need their closer as much as possible down the stretch.
Here’s some more news and notes from around baseball…
- Scouts for the Indians have been told to focus their attention on Rays minor leaguers, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports, and Cotillo wonders if this could suggest that Cleveland is revisiting talks for David Price. Cleveland and Tampa discussed a Price trade during the offseason, as Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, that involved Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar going to the Rays. (Tampa Bay also had interest in Francisco Lindor but the Indians consider Lindor virtually untouchable in any trade.) A new trade package, Cotillo speculates, could be Santana/Salazar for Price and a couple of Rays prospects, hence the Tribe’s interest in scouting Tampa’s farm system.
- Also from Cotillo, the Angels made the same three-year, $15.75MM offer to both Joe Smith and Edward Mujica this past offseason and told both pitchers that the contract would go to whichever accepted first. Smith took the deal first and is enjoying a strong season, even moving into the Halos’ closing job. Mujica, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $9.5MM deal with the Red Sox and has struggled to a 5.45 ERA in 34 2/3 IP.
- The Giants are still without agreements for five of their top 10 draft picks, a situation Cotillo believes could be due to the club devoting their time and draft pool resources to signing first-rounder Tyler Beede, who couldn’t negotiate until after the College World Series.
- Despite the number of recent stars to come out of Cuba, teams are still relying on very little or no scouting information when signing these players, Danny Knobler writes for Bleacher Report. Knobler’s piece explores the future of the Cuban talent pipeline while also delving into the limited data the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively, had when signing Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig to major contracts.
- While the Royals‘ farm system is still considered strong, it is short on prospects ready to help at the Major League level, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Thanks to a few thin drafts, the prospect package sent to Tampa Bay in the James Shields trade and the fact that many of their top prospects of recent years are already in the bigs, “between Omaha and their [Double-A] club, there’s nobody that looks like they’re going to jump up soon as a significant piece,” an AL executive said.
Earlier today, the Phillies placed Domonic Brown on the seven-day disabled list with concussion-like symptoms. The move was retroactive to July 24, meaning he'd be eligible to return next Wednesday. As general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. noted to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the speed with which Brown can return will have an impact on the team's decision to buy or sell heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Here's more on the Phillies and the rest of th NL East…
- Also from Salisbury's piece, Amaro was hesitant to discuss reports that he and his staff are working on an extension for Chase Utley. Salisbury writes that if the Phillies don't think they can sign him long-term, they'll probably move him. When asked if Utley will be a Phillie after the deadline, Amaro replied, "I would think so."
- Many teams are keeping an eye on Marlon Byrd whether they admit to it or not, a Major League executive told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Mets are still planning to hang onto both Byrd and Bobby Parnell, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported today. Martino cites a source "with direct knowledge of the Mets' plans" as saying the pair will remain with the team unless they receive an offer they simply can't turn down.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post examines the uncertainty that surrounds the Nationals' bullpen, noting that it's possible the team could option former closer Drew Storen to the minors to rediscover himself. Storen has a 5.40 ERA and 1.46 WHIP with 9.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings this season.
- Kilgore also notes that it's likely the Nationals will trade one of their relievers this offseason. Rafael Soriano is set to make $14MM in 2014, while Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard will both receive raises on their respective 2013 salaries of $2.5MM and $4MM via arbitration. Kilgore notes that the Nats could do what would've seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago by trading one of their relievers now in order to maximize the return.
Rafael Soriano recently agreed to a two-year, $28MM contract with the Nationals, obtaining the second-largest deal signed by an NL East team this winter. Within the division B.J. Upton’s $75MM guarantee with the Braves remains the only deal that surpasses Soriano’s $28MM agreement. Here are some links from the NL East, starting in Washington…
- Agents and GMs are assessing the present day value of Soriano’s deal at $11MM per season, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). Half of Soriano’s $14MM salary will be deferred each year.
- Washington has drafted well under GM Mike Rizzo, but trades have also played a vital role in transforming the Nationals into one of baseball's best teams, as Zachary Levine of Baseball Prospectus explains.
- One Mets insider told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork that he doesn’t believe the team has spoken to free agent starter Daisuke Matsuzaka “at all.” New York executives are looking to round out the team’s rotation, but not necessarily with the Japanese right-hander. Matsuzaka, 32, has interest in pitching for the Padres.
The Nationals agreed to sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28MM contract, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports (Twitter links). Soriano will receive $7MM in 2013, $7MM in 2014 and the remaining $14MM in deferred payments from 2018-2025, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The deal includes a 2015 option valued at $14MM that will vest if Soriano finishes 120 games over the course of the next two seasons. Agent Scott Boras represents Soriano.
Soriano posted a 2.26 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 35.9% ground ball rate for the Yankees this past season. The 33-year-old saved 42 games, reaching the 40-save plateau for the second time in three seasons.
He ranked 17th on MLBTR’s list of top 50 free agents entering the offseason, and passed on two contracts that were available to him earlier in the winter. He opted out of his existing contract with the Yankees then declined New York’s qualifying offer.
The decision to decline the Yankees’ qualifying offer linked Soriano to draft pick compensation. The Nationals will lose a draft pick for signing Soriano, and the Yankees will obtain a compensatory selection for their loss. The Nationals stand to lose the 29th overall selection, while the Yankees are now poised to gain the 32nd overall selection, Jim Callis of Baseball America notes (on Twitter). Throughout the process Boras insisted he’d find a favorable deal for his client.
Soriano's deal resembles the two-year, $30MM contract Mariano Rivera signed with the Yankees before the 2011 season. Non-relievers such as Ryan Dempster, David Ortiz and Torii Hunter signed two-year deals worth a comparable amount earlier this offseason, as MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows.
Soriano joins a Nationals bullpen that includes right-handers Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and Henry Rodriguez. Washington doesn't boast much established left-handed relief after losing Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez to free agency.
Boras represents a number of Nationals players, as MLBTR's Agency Database shows. Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth are also clients of the Boras Corporation.
Nationals owner Ted Lerner was "heavily involved" in bringing Soriano to Washington, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. The Dodgers were also in the mix for Soriano, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports (on Twitter). The Yankees never engaged Soriano after he declined their qualifying offer, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Morosi that Detroit "did not seriously pursue" the reliever either.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Links from the only division in baseball that featured three 90-win teams in 2012…
- Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he’s still looking to add a bat and, potentially, a reliever, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). The Rays could also settle some arbitration cases before Friday’s deadline for exchanging figures with eligible players.
- The Blue Jays seek a reliever for the back end of their bullpen, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link). Heyman suggests setup relievers such as free agents Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Capps, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth could be fits.
- The Orioles aren’t interested in trading J.J. Hardy to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if Baltimore would consider dealing closer Jim Johnson to acquire the 24-year-old ground ball pitcher.
- The Yankees were "fired up" to hear that they're on track get a compensatory draft pick for losing Rafael Soriano to the Nationals, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter).
The Dodgers have already spent big on their bullpen this offseason, adding Brandon League on a three-year, $22.5MM deal and J.P. Howell for one year and $2.85MM. According to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter), that hasn't stopped them from looking into the biggest name left on the relief market: Rafael Soriano.
Olney says there's only about a 20-percent chance the team goes out and signs the former Yankee stopper. That's obviously a long shot, but it's more interest than has been reported by most other clubs to date. The market for Soriano appears to be stalled due to the fact that he rejected a qualifying offer from the Yankees and will therefore require a signing team to forfeit a draft pick.
The Dodgers appear set in the bullpen with League, Howell, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra and Matt Guerrier. They've already shown a willingness to spend even when they appear set, however, as they've added Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu despite already having Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang in tow.
Soriano, 33, pitched to a 2.26 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 67 2/3 innings for the Bombers in 2012. He also racked up 42 saves following injuries to Mariano Rivera and David Robertson. The strong season prompted Soriano to opt out of his three-year contract, reportedly in search of a new four-year deal on the free agent market.
Four years seems to be an unlikely outcome at this point, though Soriano only needs to sign for more than $14MM to obtain more than the salary he opted out of. Agent Scott Boras recently discussed Soriano's situation with ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
Though many have expressed doubts that Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano and Kyle Lohse will find lucrative free agent contracts, their agent suggests all three players will be just fine. Scott Boras, who represents each of the top three remaining free agents, told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that Bourn, Soriano and Lohse will do well, even if they remain unsigned as Spring Training approaches.
“People call me all the time and say, 'Man, your players aren't signed yet,'” Boras said. “Well, it doesn't really matter what time dinner is when you're the steak.”
All three players are linked to draft pick compensation after turning down qualifying offers at the beginning of the offseason (they're actually the only three free agents still linked to draft pick compensation). The Rangers have done legwork on Bourn, according to Crasnick, who notes that the Braves haven’t ruled out a reunion with the center fielder. Bourn could appeal to the Mariners, and Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik told Crasnick that he continues seeking bats.
"We have had a lot of dialogue regarding offense, but we would be open to anything," Zduriencik said.
Boras denied reports that he circled back to ask the Yankees about their interest in a one-year deal with Soriano. The Tigers continue expressing confidence in internal relief options such as Bruce Rondon, though they’re viewed as a possible suitor for Soriano along with the Blue Jays. However, Toronto would likely be reluctant to surrender a draft pick to sign the closer.
As for Lohse, the Rockies and Mets want starters, but prefer affordable options. Some view the Angels and Rangers as potential suitors for the right-hander, though their interest level remains unclear. While the Brewers could use pitching, GM Doug Melvin said he’s decided “this is the year we're probably going to go with some of our younger guys."