WASHINGTON – Rafael Soriano understands the clock is ticking.
It’s early June and the 35-year-old reliever with 207 saves on his resume still remains out there as a free agent. Soriano recently dropped super-agent Scott Boras and switched to Octagon Baseball, whose managing director, Alan Nero, represents Cubs manager Joe Maddon and keeps an office in downtown Chicago.
The Cubs have shown interest in Soriano, who saved 32 games for the Washington Nationals last season but performed dramatically different before (0.97 ERA) and after (6.48 ERA) the All-Star break.
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Soriano enjoyed his best individual season playing for Maddon on the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays team that won 96 games. The right-hander put up a 1.73 ERA and notched 45 saves for the American League East champs.
“Me and ‘Rafi’ have a really good relationship,” Maddon said Friday at Nationals Park. “I had a great time with him in Tampa Bay. He had a great season down there. I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t know where we’re at with all that. But I like the guy. He’s very good.”
The Boston Globe and CBSSports.com identified the St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays as the two other teams seriously pursuing Soriano.
Soriano’s coming off a two-year, $28 million contract with Washington, but it’s a completely different market after Boras played a game of chicken this winter.
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“As a closer, he was a guy that didn’t just throw the ball 100 miles an hour,” Maddon said. “He knows how to pitch. He and I used to have a lot of conversations about how he attacks certain hitters in the game, because he really sees things.
“He’s got definite ideas on how to get hitters out. And he’ll make choices where he won’t pitch to you, but he’s going to pitch to him. I’ve always appreciated his pitch-ability.”
The Cubs have blown eight saves and already played 25 one-run games (15-10). This bullpen features two former All-Star starters who couldn’t stick in the rotation (Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson) and a closer who’s looked dominant and shaky at times (Hector Rondon).
Do you think you need another arm out there?
“You’re always looking to get better,” Maddon said diplomatically. “Every team is, not just the Cubs.”