While it wasn’t the return the Braves had hoped for in exchange for parting ways with their hard-throwing set-up man/closer Rafael Soriano, GM Frank Wren struck a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays late Wednesday night.
Atlanta will receive right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez in return for Soriano.
Chavez was 1-4 with a 4.01 ERA in a team-high 73 appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Pittsburgh traded Chavez to Tampa Bay this November.
By offering Soriano arbitration, the Braves had hoped to receive a first-round draft pick as compensation for the right-hander.
However, Soriano’s decision to accept a non-guaranteed, one-year deal over testing the free agent waters in search of a more stable, long-term contract showed clubs were obviously reluctant to part with a high draft pick for Soriano’s services.
The Braves had already filled their set-up man and closer roles earlier this offseason with the signings of Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner.
Keeping Soriano was never an option for Atlanta as his projected $7 million salary next season would not have fit into the Braves’ budget plans.
A team with a sub-$100 million payroll can not afford to tie up approximately $20 million to its bullpen.
As a result, the Braves had little to no leverage in trade talks involving Soriano, and had made it known that they would be willing to accept a lesser return for monetary relief.
In the end, Atlanta accomplished its goal as reports have them not responsible for any of Soriano’s contract. This deal was strictly a player for player acquisition.
The completion of the Braves and Rays trade can now end initial speculation that the club would have had to pay a portion of Soriano’s salary to move him.
The trade will become official after both players pass physicals and the Rays are able to work out a contract with Soriano. That announcement could come as early as this afternoon.
FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reports the Rays and Soriano are nearing the completion of a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $7 million.
Atlanta would have received nothing for Soriano if they hadn’t offered him arbitration so they have no regrets that they did.
Braves beat writer Mark Bowman reports that Chavez, 26, provides a decent return for the club and says some scouts are high on his abilities, believing the hard-throwing righty could be a serviceable addition to Atlanta’s bullpen.
His fastball has been clocked as high as 98 MPH and he also throws a slider and a change-up.
In contrast last season, lefties hit .227 against him with righties tagging him for a .320 average.
Chavez’s change is his go-to pitch against left-handers and it could be assumed that manager Bobby Cox will use him as a specialist–in those situations–next season.