Soriano mulling Braves' arbitration offer
Reliever reportedly looks at options prior to Monday deadline
ATLANTA -- When the Braves signed Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito earlier this week, they did so without much concern about the possibility that Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano would accept their arbitration offers.
But Soriano's agent Peter Greenberg told ESPN.com that his client is still thinking about the possibility of accepting the offer before Monday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.
"It's going to go down to the wire," Greenberg told the website. "It's definitely going to be a last-minute decision for us."
If Soriano ends up providing a surprise by accepting the arbitration offer, the Braves find their bullpen further improved at a cost that would exceed the projections. They didn't believe either of their free-agent relievers would accept the one-year contracts gained through arbitration.
Soriano has reportedly drawn interest from a number of clubs, who would seemingly be willing to provide a much more attractive multi-year deal. While converting 27 of his 31 save opportunities in 2009, the 30-year-old right-hander posted a 2.97 ERA, limited opponents to a .194 batting average and recorded 12.13 strikeouts per nine innings (the National League's second-best mark).
It has been reported that Soriano could make $8 million via arbitration. But given that this figure would be based on the average annual salary gained by this year's free-agent relievers, the Braves seem to believe he would more likely gain something in the neighborhood of $6.5 million.
This belief is based on the fact that the Braves signed Wagner, whose Hall of Fame-caliber credentials obviously trump those compiled by Soriano, to a $6.75 million contract. This figure was also previously erroneously reported as $7 million.
Given that Soriano earned a $6.1 million salary at the end of a back-loaded, two-year, $9 million contract this past season, there's certainly reason to doubt his desire to exit such a productive season and gain this small raise via a one-year deal that wouldn't provide any long-term security.
Soriano would also be assuming the risk of accepting this one-year deal and finding himself being primarily utilized in the sixth and seventh innings. The Braves have clearly made it known that they have every intention to utilize Wagner and Saito as their top two relievers.
"We know there's a lot of interest in Rafael, but we still don't have a sense yet whether [salary] arbitration or going on the free market is in his best interests," Greenberg told ESPN.com.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.