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January 8, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Tuesday, January 8

by Daniel Rathman

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Yesterday’s Roundup included a segment on a compensated free agent, Michael Bourn, who may yet rejoin his former team, months after he rejected the Braves’ qualifying offer. Today’s kicks off with a look at one of Bourn’s fellow, beleaguered job-seekers…

Rafael Soriano won’t return to the Bronx
…but in this case, the player will not be welcomed back by his previous employer. According to FOX Sports’ Bob Klapisch, Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras—who also represents Bourn—contacted the Yankees in December to see if they would consider serving as a safety blanket for his client, who would agree to a one-year deal and try his luck on the market again next winter. Klapisch tweeted on Monday that the request was “flatly denied,” so Boras’ furious search for a different taker continues.

The 33-year-old Soriano did a fine job filling in for the injured Mariano Rivera in 2012, converting 42 of 46 save opportunities and posting a 3.27 FIP along the way. After taking home $10 million in 2011 and $11 million in 2012, Soriano opted out of a $14 million paycheck for 2013, and then (predictably) turned down the Yankees’ $13.3 million overture. With the free-agent market deep in relievers but low on proven closers with a clean bill of health, Boras likely expected a contender in need of a bullpen upgrade to come calling with a multi-year proposal. And that might have happened, if the price tag did not also involve surrendering its first-round pick.

Since then, most of Soriano’s potential suitors have found other plugs for their late-inning holes. The Angels signed Ryan Madson. The Reds kept Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers retained Brandon League. The Red Sox inked Koji Uehara, and then acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates. And the Tigers, perhaps Soriano’s best hope for a long-term hitch, appear content to turn over their closer role to rookie flamethrower Bruce Rondon. The good news is that, save for Brian Wilson, Soriano now has virtually no competition; the bad news is that, as has been the case for most of the offseason, there is also scant demand for his services.

ESPN’s Buster Olney followed up on Klapisch’s report by noting that the Yankees prefer the sandwich-round pick that they would receive when Soriano signs elsewhere to any deal with the right-hander, no matter how inexpensive it might be. If that’s the case, then he should not expect any calls from general manager Brian Cashman until after the first day of the amateur draft, when the draft-pick compensation requirement would be waived. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors tweeted back on Dec. 26 that a sign-and-trade scenario, even if the Yankees acquiesced to it, would be viewed as collusion by the league.

Boras has a track record of wriggling out of seemingly ominous situations with free agents, most notably the nine-year, $214 million pact he secured for Prince Fielder last Jan. 25. Finding a new home for Soriano might be his stiffest challenge yet.

Scott Hairston likely to stay in New York—but in which borough?
Meanwhile, Hairston, who is represented by Casey Close and has no compensation requirement hanging over his head, appears almost certain to remain in the Big Apple. The 32-year-old has been dragging his feet since the Winter Meetings, hoping for a multi-year commitment, but his bidding is essentially down to the two New York teams, per a blog post by ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews. The choice will come down to both the proposed terms and Hairston’s projected role.

A right-handed hitter with strong credentials against left-handed pitching (.315 TAv in 2012, .300 lifetime), Hairston fits best as a platoon outfielder on a contender, which is the gig he would receive from the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi currently has three left-handed outfielders—Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki—in his starting lineup, and given Ichiro’s age and Gardner’s injury history, having a powerful reserve to spell them versus southpaws would be ideal. But Hairston appeared in 134 games for Terry Collins last season, and he’s not particularly inclined to accept a decrease in playing time, which makes the Mets a more attractive fit.

The other factor that points the arrow toward Queens is Hairston’s desire to land a two-year deal. Since Cashman is adhering to a strict $189 million budget for the 2014 season, he would prefer not to guarantee a significant chunk of salary to a part-time player beyond 2013—a plan that contributed to the Matt Diaz signing last week. New York Post columnist Joel Sherman reported in the wake of the Diaz addition that the Yankees were still looking for righty thump, but if limiting 2014 commitments is the top priority, then Cashman may be content to pursue other options.

At this point, the ball is in Hairston’s court. As Close told Matthews, he expects to choose a borough “in a matter of days.” 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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