Should the Cincinnati Reds go after Rafael Soriano?


One of the best traits a mid-market club can have is their ability to buy when the asking price is low. It’s similar to a broker on Wall Street pulling in a hot stock at a bargain price. As the calendar turns from January to February, general managers around baseball will be looking to turn into wolves, hungry for the right deal.

Get excited: in 20 days, pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona, for the Cincinnati Reds’ Spring Training. Those that are still free agents are now sitting at home more than nervously anticipating the ringing of the phone, not wanting to the chance to waste a year of their career. The longer the clocks ticks at this point, the better the bargaining position clubs put themselves in.

One of those men anxiously awaiting a call is relief pitcher Rafael Soriano. In four of the last five seasons, Soriano has recorded at least 32 saves, while also leading the league (the American League) with 45 back in 2010. He parlayed his success into a contract with the New York Yankees where he became the brief heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.

From there, he signed himself a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals that allowed him to rake in $11 million in each of the last two seasons. While he would save 75 games in two years there, his role eroded at the conclusion of 2014. Long-heralded prospect Drew Storen combined with veteran Tyler Clippard to take over the closer role, relegating Soriano to the middle ground so that he could find whatever it was he had lost. A 7.56 ERA in nine September appearances can do that to a pitcher.

Despite the fact that he has made at least $10 million in the past four seasons, he currently sits as a free agent with a closer market that is rapidly closing in around him. Francisco Rodriguez still sits out on the market as a more reliable option and Jonathan Papelbon has an incredible track record, along with a team willing to deal him—Soriano has become lost in the mix. It’s highly unlikely that at this point in negotiations, any team will be willing to shell over the type of cash he has made in years past; which may also have something to do with his late season failures.

A central theme the Reds’ front office has portrayed since the 2014 season ended has been that there is no money to be spent. It’s similar to your parents telling you that you can’t have money to go out on Friday night, or your wife informing you that you can’t in fact buy a bigger television. Of course, it’s much better to downplay things than to be frivolous.

The club traded Jonathan Broxton last season to pay for Ryan Ludwick’s buyout and to acquire a new left fielder, which happened to be Marlon Byrd. They still have arbitration cases on the table with Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, which have a ways to go to be solved, but their cap for the most part is set in stone.

This massive “fire sale” has not been as bad as anticipated. While they did lose two key starters, they’ve retooled in other instances. Yet, the bullpen still sits as a major area of concern. Aside from Aroldis Chapman, there isn’t a whole lot of confidence to be passed around down there. There are veterans such as Sean Marshall and Manny Parra, but no one can quite say what to expect out of them. There are youngsters in Jumbo Diaz and J.J. Hoover who have shone both flashes of brilliance, and moments that lack inspiration. Signing Soriano is certainly not a guarantee, but it’s better than staying neutral.

Unfortunately, I don’t moonlight as a sports agent. I can only guess as to what Soriano’s dollar value could be. If he could be had in the $4-6 million range (or less, obviously), I would be inclined to say that the Reds should pull the trigger.

At 35 years old, the club could use the veteran leadership; much in the same way they needed it from Jonathan Broxton. It’s a move that wouldn’t cripple the club and could always be reversed should they fall out of it by the Trade Deadline as some club would surely require his services.