Like most observers, I was surprised that Rafael Soriano accepted the Braves’ offer of arbitration last night. Soriano’s agent Peter Greenberg seems to have indicated to the Braves that he doesn’t expect his client to pitch for the crowded Braves bullpen, but to be traded.
“If they accept arbitration, I don’t think they’ll be in a role that they’ll be excited about, based on what they did last year,” Wren said. “I would anticipate them coming to us and asking us to trade them once the market develops and goes forward.”
This decision appears to indicate that Soriano is a risk-taker. Soriano is likely worth about what he would get in an arbitration hearing, but he’ll lose out on a multi-year deal that he could sign as a free agent. And, it seems unlikely that the Braves and Soriano will agree to a long-term deal. He’ll get a big payday this year, then head out for free agency next year.
But, I wonder if there might be another explanation. Soriano is a Type A free agent, which means that any team that signs him would likely have to give up its first-round pick to the Braves. This compensation cuts into the salary that his signing team might be willing to pay him, depending on how the signing team values the Braves’ draft pick. The solution is to unbundle the pick from the player. Should the Braves trade Soriano, there is no lost-free-agent compensation. Since Soriano will likely be worth about what he will get in arbitration, no team will be willing to give up much for him. We’re talking a minor prospect instead of a first-round talent. Soriano then reaps his full value for next year.
The next step is to approve a trade. After the trade goes down, Soriano can approach his new team to discuss a long-term deal to guarantee security without even throwing a pitch in 2010. Maybe the Braves can capture some of that value in prospects, given that they know this is a possibility, but Soriano really holds all the cards. Reports are (though it’s not clear to me where this is in the CBA) that Soriano must approve any trades before June 15. Plus, he can always threaten not to sign a long-run deal with his new team; thus, teams aren’t going to be willing give up much more than what he’s worth on a one-year deal.
Now, this is all hypothetical justification after the fact, but I have to say that upon reflection this is making a little more sense. The end result is that Soriano gets his full value for next season and possibly a long-term deal similar to what he would have gotten as a free agent; all without having draft-pick compensation sap some of his worth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Greenberg attracts some new clients if he pulls this off. Oh, and draft-pick compensation will certainly be going away in the next CBA.