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.