(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
UPDATE-Joel Sherman Tweets that the Yanks won’t be trading for him.
Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Braves, who recently signed Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, will have lots of relatively expensive relievers under contract now. Imagine if Mike Gonzalez accepts, too.
As ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick points out, the Braves need Soriano’s permission to trade him before June 15th. Apparently Soriano prefers the security of a one-year deal to the uncertainty of a market that would have been dulled by his Type A status.
12:40pm: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman says Soriano’s agent Peter Greenberg will make the rounds today, talking to as many teams as possible before making the arbitration decision.
11:29am: Heyman notes that Soriano has attracted interest from the Yankees, Orioles, and Astros. The Yankees would give up their #32 pick, the Orioles #37, or the Astros #43.
This intrigues me to no end. Estimates are he’d get around 7-8 mil in arbitration, since he’s coming off a good season and made 6.35 mil last year. To put that into some context in the current marketplace, the Braves just gave Billy Wagner 7 mil to close for them next year, and Soriano is seen as more of a swing man who could set up or close, but not a pure closer. Which is a roundabout way of saying he’s not worth 7-8 mil on the open market.
Given the youth in the Yankee bullpen there’s certainly room for more veteran presence, right now everyone but Mo and Marte are youngsters. If Joba and Hughes are targeted for the rotation next year as many suspect, the bridge to Mariano would be something the Yanks would like to address this off season. The absence of 2009 Phil Hughes would leave a gaping hole in the 2010 bullpen. With the Yanks dealing off Brian Bruney to the Nationals yesterday they saved themselves an estimated 2 mil for next season right there, so overpaying a bit for Soriano is easier for Brian Cashman to swallow.
Cashman is on the record saying he doesn’t want to give up a draft pick for a setup man, and tries not to hand out long term deals to free agent relievers given their volatile nature. But with Soriano accepting arbitration I don’t think you’d even have to give up that much. He’d be getting paid much more for 2010 than he would get on the open market, which is why he wanted to accept arbitration in the first place. If he’s overpaid in dollars he has very little residual trade value, if any. Fangraphs has him worth 9.1 mil last year, yet worth only .5 the year before and 1.7 in 2007. His injury history makes him unlikely to be a good investment, and setup men are never worth as much as closers.
The Braves would be happy just to get rid of his salary for next year. It would be the Juan Cruz situation all over again where you give up a token player, one who may soon be out of options anyway, and just agree to pay him for one year. However, there seems to be a bit more demand for Soriano than there was for Cruz last year, which went all the way to spring. This looks like it will be wrapped up quickly, and that could drive up the return for Braves GM Frank Wren. But make no mistake, the Braves have their backs to the wall. They have to move him. As an organization they have always had a set budget and paying him 8 mil would mean dumping another salary (or two) they’d prefer to keep. They’d be highly motivated sellers.
This is the type of thing teams try to work out in advance, and the reports of Soriano’s agent gauging landing spots for him fits that scenario. A relief pitcher with Rafael’s ability on a 1 year deal is sweet, even if it is a bit pricey. I do this yesterday.
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