Is Soriano the next Johnny Damon saga? (Updated)

Does this sound like a familiar scenario: The Tigers say they’re set at a particular position, one where prominent agent Scott Boras has a well-known free agent looking for a market. Boras bypasses team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and talks with owner Mike Ilitch. The Tigers abruptly change course and get involved.

It happened three winters ago with Johnny Damon. Could it be happening right now with Rafael Soriano? With Tuesday’s report from MLB Network’s Peter Gammons that Boras talked with Ilitch about Soriano on Monday, you have to wonder.

[UPDATE: Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski does not talk about specific free agents. However, he affirmed his team's stance in response to a question Tuesday afternoon. They still plan to give hard-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon a chance to win the closer's job, and it would have to be the right scenario for the Tigers to add a closer.

"Our outlook has not changed," Dombrowski replied in an email.]

The fact that both Ryan Madson and Jonathan Broxton — two big names on the secondary segment of the market — are reportedly close to deals with other clubs back up the Tigers’ stance that they’re not going to pay big for a closer.

Neither Broxton nor Madson have the resume or the arsenal of Soriano, who has topped 40 saves twice in the last three seasons and might have done the same in 2011 if he wasn’t a setup man in New York. With Joakim Soria coming off surgery and likely not back until midseason, Soriano is the sure thing among free-agent closers.

That makes it curious that there is so little buzz about Soriano on the market. Simply put, the appetite for gigantic closers seems tempered. It happened three years ago with Jose Valverde, who was the last closer left on the market when the Tigers swooped in and signed him for better terms than anybody expected.

Valverde wasn’t a Boras client then. He is now, but Valverde’s departure from the Tigers is certain. And clearly, Boras has another client in mind for Detroit.

All along, the expectation was that Boras would try to get the Tigers — and especially Ilitch — involved on Soriano. The question has always been whether Ilitch would listen. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reported a couple weeks ago that it already happened, and that Ilitch said no. Others have reported that it hadn’t happened yet but they expected it to come. ESPN’s Buster Olney cited executives from other teams expecting it to happen. Now comes Gammons’ report, and you can’t help but think back to Ilitch’s quote from the Prince Fielder press conference last winter:

“As far as Scott Boras, boy, I’ll tell you something: He knows this team better than I do,” Ilitch said at that press conference. “I mean, he knows every player, what their averages are, where they’re from, what they’ve done during their career, who leads the team, what areas are necessary. He just knows everything about the Detroit Tigers. I was flabbergasted. I mean, utility players, everybody, we went through a big discussion and pointed out to me that some of the things that he thought were necessary to win a World Series. He explained why and so on and so forth. There was great salesmanship involved with that, but the guy is an encyclopedia when it comes to knowing the teams and knowing the people that are associated with the organization.

“I got a lot of good information from him. I put the sales aside and I listened to the common-sense approach that he has and the knowledge he has about the game.”

That doesn’t mean Soriano will get the kind of massive deal that he wants, one that torpedoes the Tigers’ long-term plans for Rondon. Time will tell if there’s a compromise to be found somewhere in there. And if it turns out anything like the Johnny Damon saga (six weeks to work out a one-year contract), it won’t be quick.

20 Comments

If I was Mr. Illitch I’d give him a 1 year contract offer. It’s no secret 2013 is the year – and gambling it on whether Rondon can close games is silly. If Rondon CAN pitch lights out at the MLB level – lets see it this year in the pen. AL ABQ and Rondon would be the middle innings RHP guys then. RHPs Villareal and Marte filling in when needed.

below, coke, downs, wilk, putkonen as the LHP middle inning guys. btw.

honestly a bullpen of: Coke, Downs, ABQ, Rondon, Benoit, Dotel and Soriano is very impressive to me

This is in response to Tiger Girl’s comment on the last thread about the Bless You Boys book.
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I think I still have a dog eared copy of that somewhere in a box. It is a great read with alot of Sparkyisms. I was 13 years old in the summer of 1984 growing up in a small town one hour from Windsor, Ontario (Wallaceburg). Baseball was my whole world back. My wife would probably say not much has changed. ;)
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If I recall, the book had every boxscore in the book. Willie has amny multiple inning saves. Boy, times have changed.
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I may need to dig that puppy out.
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Go Tigers!!!!
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— Bob

I would look at a one year deal also. The Tigers are built to win right now. I love the upside of Rondon but if he starts the season as the closer and he falters; they have no options. An unreliable closer can kill the morale of a team and torpedo any chances of a championship run.
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Go Tigers.
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— Bob

Hey Bob. I grew up mostly in Windsor. Had friends in the Wallaceburg area (Demers).
Used to play in the Essex County Senior Baseball League.
I have that book too.
Cheers.

The Tigers have the draft pick no 37 ( swapped with Marlins) but Soriano is not worth the top draft pick.He underperformed until last year( his contract year)
Matt Capp? Soria? ( he is in the same situation as Madson, he wont pitch the first month and he would be cheap)

“Giving up home runs remains a worrisome issue for Soriano, who has served up five in his last 15 appearances — not a good sign for someone unproven in this role as a Yankee in the postseason.”
Benoit? no, Soriano

http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/rough_times_for_struggling_soriano_dpVvMp7nr8YgaqcbsIjLqN

“Soriano struggled in his first season with the Yankees in 2011, posting a 4.12 ERA in 42 appearances and lost his setup role to David Robertson.”
bleachreport.com

yea the more i think about it – losing the draft pick to give him a 1 year contract …. is just not the right move here.
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It’s very possible to find a closer btwn Rondon, Dotel and Coke. Especially if you sign Soria (which is the same as picking up a bullpen piece at the trade deadline).

And Soriano is looking for 60/4

hmmph. well, Dotel and Benoit are probably gone after 2013. If you give Soriano what he wants, you could design the 2014 pen around him and some of the younger/coming up guys (e.g. Rondon, Villareal, Downs).

Pingback: The Tigers Slaves to Scott Boras’ Mind Games | Walkoff Woodward

Scott Boras is an outstanding player agent. I know a lot of folks don’t like him but I can’t blame a guy for doing his job well. That said, I hope Mr. Ilitch doesn’t get carried away. I mean, all that info that Boras has on the Tigers can be provided by the organization if Mr. I is interested in hearing it. Mr. Dave and his staff always have a solid plan in place and I’d hesitate to change it.
I’m ambivalent about this possible signing. I like for a team to develop its own closers if possible. I wouldn’t want to go multiple years at a big price tag on Soriano, but it’s very likely we may need some bullpen help in 2013.

I’m not at all surprised at the lack of interest in Soriano. When he declined his $ 13.3 million option with the Yankees, he said that Boras told him that he could get $ 60 million for four years. That is beyond absurd money for a closer.

Too many teams have gotten burned by paying huge salaries to closers. K Rod, Bell, Madson, Papelbon, Nathan, the list goes on and on. Soriano might be worth half that salary, and half the years.

Still, the Tigers would be foolish to start the season rolling the dice on Rondon, unless they are confident that they have a solid plan B on the roster. Maybe Dotel. More likely, DD will wait out the market and see who’s left after Christmas. That’s how he got Valverde at a discount, and Lyon, and Jones….

Not a bad analysis. Kudos.

Jones signed at the winter meetings in ’06. Lyon and Valverde were both January signings. Urbina signed in the middle of spring training in ’04, for what that’s worth.

I just dug out my copy of “Bless You Boys”. I think Tigergirl meant they started doing the wave in 84, not that they started it :) Speaking of Sparky, we were going thru the cable channels and came across WKRP in Cincinatti. It was from 1979 and Sparky had a guest role and was starting a sports talk show. He was just fired from the Reds and hired by the Tigers. I forgot how funny he could be.

Morosi reported that Boesch has garnered trade interest from several teams. He said Boesch is expendable and had a source who said to look for Boesch to be dealt during the winter meetings.

If we trade Boesch, we need to get back a RHB who could play OF and also serve as a backup for V-Mart, too. BB still is an option if V-Mart can’t go 4/1.

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