Baseball’s free agent market is finally quieting down as most of the big names are already locked up. But there’s one very good player still available and that’s former Rays closer Rafael Soriano.
Soriano led the American League with 45 saves in 2010 with Tampa Bay with a stellar 1.73 ERA, but there’s little chance the cost-cutting Rays will bring him back. Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras so it’s not a huge shock that Soriano is waiting until the last minute to sign with a club. Boras is hoping that the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees will drive up the cost by getting in a bidding war for Soriano. Both the Halos and Yankees want to do something after missing out on all their main targets this offseason, namely Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee. The Angels could probably use Soriano more because they are counting on Fernando Rodney right now, while Soriano obviously wouldn’t close in the Bronx with Mariano Rivera in place. And the Yanks already have said they will pass on Soriano.
But another team is sniffing around on Soriano and it’s the one that must swoop in and get him: the Chicago White Sox.
It’s been a good offseason already for the Pale Hose as they added Adam Dunn to fill their designated hitter role and were able to re-sign Paul Konerko. Chicago let Bobby Jenks walk (now with Boston) and has one glaring hole on the roster: closer. Right now it’s likely that some combination of Chris Sale or Matt Thornton closes out games, although Sale might start the season in the rotation until Jake Peavy is healthy. Adding Soriano would allow Thornton to stay as one of the majors’ top set-up men and would quickly turn the Chicago bullpen into a strength.
It’s not that Chicago doesn’t have interest but finances are the problem. The White Sox already are on the hook for at least $120 million in roster commitments, and could be close to matching the highest payroll ever for a season ($121 million in 2008). The 31-year-old Soriano made $7.25 million last season and certainly should get a healthy raise on that for 2011. But the longer Soriano lingers on the market his value would seem to go down and then White Sox GM Kenny Williams might have to jump in with a one-year deal.
If Williams can get the go-ahead from owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Soriano would easily make the White Sox the favorites in the AL Central over Minnesota and Detroit. And I would argue it might make Chicago the second-best team in the AL after Boston. Currently the Red Sox lead all AL teams with odds at Bodog of 9/2 to win the 2011 World Series. The White Sox are currently 25/1 but I’m guessing those would drop to 18 or 15/1 if Soriano is signed.
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