In yesterday’s Lukewarm Stove, we noted that Jon Heyman said the Chicago Cubs could be considering free agent reliever Rafael Soriano as an addition in their bullpen. It sounds like there’s at least a little smoke there.
Sources tell Patrick Mooney that the Cubs are among several teams “kicking the tires” on Soriano, 35, who is currently throwing in the Dominican Republic. Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras, indicated that the former closer could be close to reaching a deal with some team. As Mooney notes, as well as Mark Gonzales, Boras wouldn’t say whether the Cubs are among the teams closely scouting Soriano in the DR. If they are watching him, though, Jesse Rogers hears from at least one scout that Soriano might not be looking so good, which could be while a deal is taking so long.
Although the numbers looked good overall in his two Washington years, Soriano was terrible in the second half of 2014, eventually losing his job as closer late in the season. That, too, could be contributing to the delay in finding the right contract.
The Cubs, who have explored a number of options for supplementing their bullpen depth – minor league signee Daniel Schlereth and recent acquisition Yoervis Medina each just debuted at AAA and could figure into the bullpen at some point – could stand to add another quality arm at the back of the pen with Neil Ramirez currently out with a shoulder injury (return status still up in the air).
We’ll see if this goes anywhere further, and what kind of deal Soriano is looking at. I doubt he settles for a minor league deal – even one with a healthy big league split – but it’s hard to see him getting a significant multi-year deal at this point. If the Cubs are planning to try and supplement the bullpen at midseason anyway, signing Soriano could be a way to do that without giving up any prospects. Soriano’s struggles last year appeared to be correctable mechanical issues (though he did see a slight dip in his fastball velocity and slight increase in his slider velocity – that can be a problematic convergence), so there’s plenty of reason to believe he could still be very good.
Then again, with so many prospects Rule 5 eligible after this season, the Cubs may actually prefer to trade a prospect or two for a bullpen arm (costing less money) than sign a pricey free agent. Of course, quality bullpen trade pieces may not be available until July. Soriano’s available now.