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Why The Red Sox Should Pursue Rafael Soriano

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The Red Sox have had a tremendous offseason as they have added superstars in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez and have also addressed the back end of the bullpen with solid sixth and seventh inning options with Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks.

However, one component of the bullpen that remains weary to many fans is the closer position.  Last season, Jonathan Papelbon turned in one of the worst seasons of his career, after he recorded a career high 3.90 ERA and 1.269 WHIP.  Papelbon, as you may remember gave many games away for the Red Sox (including two memorable ones against the Yankees) that caused Red Sox fans to pull their hair out again and again in 2010.

In the 2011 Free Agent class lies former Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano, who turned in a career-best 1.73 ERA and career-high 45 saves in 47 chances in 2010.  Soriano, despite having a career year has yet to draw significant interest from other clubs this offseason.  Soriano has reportedly drawn interest primarily from the Yankees and White Sox this offseason.

However, with news that the Yankees are not willing to pay Soriano closer money to be a set-up man, and the White Sox being pessimistic about their chances of signing him due to payroll concern, I raise this question.

Why shouldn't the Red Sox pursue this guy?  Maybe I'm being a little bit greedy, but here is why he would be a good fit with the Red Sox: 

Jonathan Papelbon Is Being Shopped Around

Although the Red Sox have backed off on the Papelbon trade discussions, there still remains the possibility that Papelbon may being playing elsewhere next season.

Papelbon, 29 is in the final year of his contract with the Red Sox and is due about 11 million dollars this season. With Daniel Bard waiting in the wings, it is very likely that 2011 is Papelbon's last season in Boston.

Although that his contract is not well liked on the trade market, the Red Sox could find a match on the market.  In a trade, the Red Sox would likely have to take on at least 5 to 6 million of Papelbon's 2011 salary in order for teams to maybe consider making a deal. 

Teams like the Angels or the Nationals who have a lot of money and are looking for bullpen help might bight on this type of deal.  Also, teams who have bad contracts to trade like the Mets (Luis Castillo, 6.5 million) would be interested in Papelbon.  Also, teams like the Cardinals, Brewers, and Braves whose closer situation isn't totally set may be interested.

With Papelbon off the books, the Red Sox could free up enough money to make a push for Soriano.  The Red Soxare currently over the luxury tax, but with Papelbon's contract off the books, the closer spot would be for Soriano's for the taking as well as the money available after a Papelbon trade.

Soriano's Market Is Starting To Dwindle

Soriano hit the market as the Free Agent class's top reliever.  However notable relievers Bobby Jenks, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Dan Wheeler and Scott Downs have since been signed (two by the Red Sox), leaving Sorianositting in January with no contract in hand.

The Scott Boras client came into the offseason looking for about 10 million dollars per season.  However, at this point in free agency, it appears that he likely won't be getting that kind of money as a relief pitcher.

As of a few days ago, the Yankees and White Soxseemed to be the most involved with Soriano.  The Yankees viewed him as a set-up to Mariano Rivera while the White Sox view him as a closer. However, both teams have appeared to have gone their separate ways.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said today that they will not pursue Soriano as he doesn't seem interested in paying 6-7 million for Soriano to be his set-up man, as his attention is fully on retaining Andy Pettite.  The White Sox, meanwhile only seem interested if Soriano's price tag "drops significantly".  The White Soxare also closing in on a deal with southpaw Will Ohman, so Soriano seems even more unlikely for the Southsiders.

The Angels seem like a fit, but in an offseasonthat they were predicted to dominate, they have only come out with Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, two relief pitchers capable of closing.  The Angels lost out on what was believed their two biggest targets in Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, and have done nothing to address their lineup.  GM Tony Reagins came out earlier this offseason saying the club would not pursue Soriano, as he believes their two lefty-relievers have completed a bullpen where Fernando Rodney would be the primary closer.

Also, with the Orioles, another early suitor signing their likely 2011 closer in Kevin Gregg, whom they signed a few days ago, so they seem to be out of the Soriano hunt.

The Red Sox could make a late entry (baring a Papelbon trade) and become interested in Soriano.  The Sox could offer Soriano a1-year deal worth about 6.5-7 million dollars that Soriano and Scott Boras would be satisfied with. With this kind of deal, the Red Sox would have a dominant closer for a season, giving Daniel Bard one more season of experience, and Scott Boras a pillow-contract, to allow him to gauge the market for Soriano in 2012.

Soriano Put Up Great Stats in 2010

Don't let the fact that Soriano has yet to be signed fool you.

With the Rays in 2010, Soriano had a career year as he recorded 45 saves in 47 chances for the Rays and posted an astounding 1.73 ERA.  Soriano was a career-high 2.6 WAR player, compared to Papelbon's 0.4 WAR rating last season.  Soriano also had a 4.07 SO/BB ratio last season, which was almost identical to Mariano Rivera's in 2010.

Since becoming a full-time closer in 2010, Soriano has proven himself as one of the best closers in baseball as he earned his first All-Star honors and was even 12th in the MVP running last season.  Soriano was a big component to the Rays success last season, as he only blew two saves

Also on an interesting note, Soriano held the Yankees to a total of three hits last season as a closer, but Papelbon gave up a total of 17 hits against the Yankees last season, including multiple blown saves.  Having Soriano in the ninth inning with a one run lead against the Yankees would make me breathe at lot easier than having Papelbon on the mound.

However the Red Sox don't appear close to trading Papelbon any time soon, and don't appear willing to give their division foes another draft choice by signing Soriano.  I also still believers he signs somewhere else at the moment.

Regardless, Soriano would make a ton of sense for the Red Sox, and would add a more reliable option for the Red Sox in closing down games in 2011.  But unless the happens, this will be one of the problems this special group that we call the 2011 Red Sox may run across on their journey back to the World Series.