Boras selling Rafael Soriano; are Tigers interested?

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Rafael Soriano

Detroit -- Less than three hours after the Tigers announced Thursday veteran closer Joe Nathan would need Tommy John surgery and is lost for the year, Scott Boras says his phone is heating up.

Boras, the mega-agent who has quite the history in dealing with the Tigers' front office, told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that calls are increasing on veteran closer Rafael Soriano.

Boras never misses an opportunity to make a sales pitch, and there's probably no coincidence to the timing of his words Thursday. There's also no indication the Tigers have been a team that's placed a call.

Soriano, 35, is the hot name among Tigers fans, because he's a rare big-name free agent who remains unsigned, with May on the horizon.

The Tigers, no doubt, are keeping an eye on potential bullpen help, and the July 31 trade deadline isn't exactly right around the corner.

But Soriano wasn't exactly on top of his game the last time he pitched. He had a sub-1.00 ERA in the first half with the Nationals last season, but ballooned badly in the second half, when hitters posted Miguel Cabrera-like numbers against him.

Soriano has saved 207 games in his 13-year career, 191 of those in the last six years with the Braves, Rays, Yankees and Nationals. He began his career with the Mariners.

Money was a turnoff with Soriano this winter, as he made $11 million in each of the last three years, and $10 million the year before that. Nobody was willing to pay that, not with the loss of velocity on the fastball in recent years, and the struggles last summer.

He'd certainly come at a discount now, but it's unclear if it'd be enough of one for the Tigers to be seriously interested.

The Tigers are expected to get a little rebate from insurance taken out on Joe Nathan's two-year, $20-million contract, and could allocate that for Soriano, who likely would be a setup-man candidate in Detroit with Joakim Soria doing so well closing ballgames. Soriano has been a setup man before, but is believed to prefer closing. He'd especially prefer closing for his next team, but he'll be a free agent next winter, and a bounceback performance could lead to big bucks. Closers, of course, routinely get far more money than setup men.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski isn't one to shed light on the situation, but he could take the wait-and-see approach with his bullpen, which has been mostly good this season, but awful Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Tigers have some promising young arms at Toledo, one of which, Alex Wilson, was called up before Thursday's game. Ian Krol, unavailable anyway Thursday after pitching twice in two days, was the demoted pitcher.

Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, Bruce Rondon and Melvin Mercedes are other young guns not far from Detroit.

The Tigers are expected to make a push for pitching at the July 31 trade deadline, for starter and relievers. The question is whether Dombrowski wants to wait that long to make his big splash in regards to the bullpen.