RCP Rafael Soriano (75 2/3 IP, 53 H, 23 ER, 27 BB, 102 K)
RRP Jesse Chavez (67 1/3 IP, 69 H, 30 ER, 22 BB, 47 K)
The monkey wrench has been pulled out of the works.
According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Braves agreed to trade former closer Rafael Soriano to the Tampa Bay Rays for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez. The medical records and other things were examined and the trade will be announced Friday.
Soriano pitched in the closer's role for most of the 2009 season. He was 27-31 in save opportunities while garnering a less-than-sparkling 1-6 record. The Dominican, who thrives on his fastball and slider, held opponents last season to a .194 batting average and a career high in strikeouts (12.1 K/9). The most lasting impression of his final year may be a couple of key blown saves:
- August 6 at Los Angeles: With the Braves leading 4-2, Soriano allowed an infield single to Juan Pierre, a groundball single to right field to Rafael Furcal and a game-ending home run to Andre Ethier.
- September 9 at Houston: Soriano took the hill for Tommy Hanson, who pitched eight innings of shutout ball. Michael Bourn struck out swinging, but then allowed a single to Kazuo Matsui and a double to Lance Berkman. Carlos Lee was intentionally walked, but Miguel Tejada singled up the middle to win the game for the Astros.
Jesse Chavez, who has been shuffled through the Rangers and Pirates systems, is known for a live fastball that can reach 95 miles and hour and has a plus curve and change-up. However, he usually has trouble locating the pitches for strikes. Last season, Chavez had his first taste of extended action in the majors. The fact that he proved he can pitch in 73 games seems promising; that means that he can handle a potential heavy workload in a Braves bullpen used by Bobby Cox.
Because of the nature of the situation, this trade amounted to a salary dump. The Braves had to get rid of Soriano because he accepted arbitration. As such, the reliever was due to make about $7 million with a slight raise in arbitration. The Braves needed that money to pursue a first baseman and outfielder. Thus, he couldn't be peddled off for much because the Braves had nearly zero leverage. The fact the Braves were able to get Chavez without having to pay any of his 2010 salary was a small miracle in and of itself.
EDIT: Frankly, when push comes to shove, I could have cared less who the Braves got back from the Rays in this trade. I hope that Sanchez has the talent to continue his career in the Braves system, but the only thing I cared about was getting rid of Soriano. That objective was accomplished. Bring on the rest of the off-season!
SECOND EDIT: Added title
Photo by AP's Gene J. Puskar