SAN DIEGO — The Cubs are looking at Rafael Soriano as another way to upgrade their bullpen.
Soriano is still out there as a free agent, training in the Dominican Republic, facing live hitters and waiting to sign with a contender. The Cubs are one of several teams that have kicked the tires on Soriano, sources said, wanting to see if the 35-year-old right-hander could become another weapon for manager Joe Maddon.
The Cubs are already loaded with Scott Boras clients. The super-agent and his entourage made an appearance at Petco Park on Thursday, posting up behind home plate, mingling with Kris Bryant’s family and speaking to reporters.
“I think Soriano could help about 10 teams now,” Boras said. “He’s second in the National League in saves the last two years. Teams are reaching out. We’re pretty close to structuring a deal for him.”
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But that doesn’t necessarily mean Boras is down to negotiating exclusively with one team.
“Clubs are watching him pitch for the second and third times,” Boras said.
Boras declined to talk specifically about the Cubs and their level of involvement with Soriano. A source familiar with the team’s thinking said the Boras playbook means Soriano will wait for maximum leverage — and the Cubs probably aren’t quite that motivated or desperate enough to pay top dollar.
But Soriano does have 207 career saves, and it would only cost money — not the prospects it would take to do a deal at the trade deadline.
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As a reference point, Soriano is coming off a two-year, $28 million contract with the Washington Nationals. He saved 32 games last season but struggled after the All-Star break (6.48 ERA). He has pitched in five postseason series with the Nationals, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
Maddon hoped there would be a confidence boost after five relievers combined to shut down the San Diego Padres and get the final 13 outs in Wednesday night’s 3-2 victory.
But the Cubs still began the day with seven blown saves and a 4.20 bullpen ERA, not what they expected from a group that appeared to be a strength on paper.
Theo Epstein’s front office has tried to fix the problem, signing James Russell, designating Phil Coke for assignment and acquiring Yoervis Medina from the Seattle Mariners in the Welington Castillo trade. Neil Ramirez would be another option, but it’s unclear when the hard-throwing right-hander will be able to contribute once he recovers from a shoulder injury.