Hey, The Jays Signed Rafael Soriano (And Other Guys You Once Knew)

Rafael Soriano
Photo Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

In camp right now with the Blue Jays are right-handed non-roster invitees David Aardsma, Brad Penny, and Roberto Hernandez (who rings two bells with his names, having once also been known as Fausto Carmona). On the actual 40-man they’ve also got Gavin Floyd (for some reason), rule five pick-up Joe Biagini (who made a good impression in inter-squad action yesterday), and former Oakland Athletic Arnold Leon.

From the left side they have invitees Wade LeBlanc and Scott Diamond. They have switch-pitcher Pat Venditte — who was particularly (read: only) effective from the left side in 2015, holding lefty hitters to a sparkling .104/.173/.234. 

And those are just the new names that go beyond vaguely familiar!

Lefties Chad Girodo and Pat McCoy are also competing for a spot behind the established Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup.

From the right side, there are Will Browning, Taylor Cole, Scott Copeland, Steve Delabar, Brady Dragmire, Blake McFarland, Ben Rowen, Bo Schultz, and Ryan Tepera beyond late inning locks Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen (plus rotation hopefuls Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, and Jesse Chavez).
And yet in some ways perhaps the most intriguing name in the Jays’ current bullpen mix is the one that isn’t there yet — the one whose free agency last summer we watched closely, before eventually seeing him land with the Cubs (for whom he was terrible. And that, of course, Rafael Soriano, the former closer for the Braves, Rays, Yankees, and Nationals, who is currently dealing with a work visa issue.
He’s got the pedigree and the track record of late inning success. Does Soriano have anything left, though?
Uh… well… the thing about that is… no, probably not. BUT WHAT IF HE DID?
It’s easy to dream on the name, I suppose. Same as it might be for a number of those other guys we recognize who are coming in either because they love the game and are willing to be in Buffalo, or to give it another — perhaps last — shot at the big leagues. 
Reality tends to be a bit cruel about these sorts of things, though.
Here is Brooks Baseball’s profile of Soriano’s repertoire compared to other right-handed pitchers, ca. last season. It’s based on a pretty small sample, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the kind of thing that would totally be hilarious if it weren’t, y’know, true.

His fourseam fastball is straight as an arrow, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has some natural sinking action and has slightly below average velo. His slider is a prototypical pitch with few remarkable qualities. His sinker (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 8 of them in 2015) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has surprisingly little armside run and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker.

I mean… LOL.

To put it kindly, he’s certainly no longer the kind of overpowering pitcher you might think remember — though his fastball velocity in 2015 (90.7) was down less than 2 mph (WHICH, TO BE CLEAR, IS STILL SIGNIFICANT) from his heyday closing out games for the Yankees in 2012 (when Mariano Rivera was hurt). The sketch of him on his FanGraphs player page, written by Owen Watson, isn’t exactly lighting any fires, either:

In hindsight, the home run that Soriano gave up to Ben Revere during a save situation on September 5th, 2014 might have been a sort of coup de grace: he hasn’t pitched in a save situation since, and his 35-year-old shoulder started barking in a major way soon after being signed by the Cubs last June. After posting a respectable 18.5% strikeout minus walk rate and 0.97/2.43 ERA/FIP during the first half of 2014 (the last year we have a sample size to draw from), he posted a 12.8% K-BB% and 6.48/4.05 ERA/FIP during the second half, showing a much higher propensity for line drives and hard contact. A long-term velocity decline in place since the beginning of 2013 continued during the small 5.2-inning sample that was his 2015 season, leading us to wonder whether there’s simply much left in the tank. Unsigned as of January and now 36 years old, it’s hard to see Soriano having much use this year outside of a middle relief/mop-up role; however, given his solid track record of both results and health before his injury-addled 2015, a team most likely will give him a shot at contributing on a major league level in some capacity.

Yeesh.

Uh… good luck with that one, boys. I hope there’s something in the tank, for sure, but… yeesh. I’m starting to remember why I didn’t go running breathless to write about Soriano’s acquisition when it happened.