Rays close to closing deal for closer Soriano, sending Chavez to Braves
UPDATE, 1:59 AM: The deal appears set if the medical reports check out on Thursday, with the Rays paying all of Soriano's salary - a commitment from ownership to making a run at the playoffs this season as the payroll could now approach $70-million - and Chavez heading to Atlanta.
DEVELOPING: The Rays were close to a deal late Wednesday to get closer Rafael Soriano from the Braves.
Soriano, who turns 30 this month, saved 27 games in 31 chances last season with a 2.97 ERA, and did so powerfully, striking out 102 (and walking 27) in 75 2/3 innings.
The deal, which required considerable negotiation, could be completed today pending a standard medical review.
It was unclear late Wednesday what the Rays would give up (though foxsports.com reported it likely was RHP Jesse Chavez, who was acquired from Pittsburgh last month for 2B Akinori Iwamura), and how they would fit Soriano into their payroll as he is in line for a raise to at least $7-million after making $6.1 million last season to complete a two-year, $9 million deal. (Especially since principal owner Stuart Sternberg recently said: “There’s no $7 million closer showing up.”)
Soriano - who is 6-1, 220 pounds and a native of the Dominican Republic - pitched five seasons with the Mariners, then after being traded in Dec. 2006 for Horacio Ramirez, the last three with the Braves. He has a career 8-18, 2.92 record with 43 saves in 57 chances. He missed most of 2008 with an elbow injury that required surgery for transposition of his ulnar nerve and removal of a bone chip.
He relies primarily on his fastball (74 percent of his pitches according to Inside Edge) and allowed only a .197 average off of it. He also has a slider and a change-up. He is incredibly tough on righthanded hitters, allowing just a .138 average and eight extra-base hits in 145 at-bats.