Rafael Soriano could have earned $14 million in the last of his three-year deal with the New York Yankees in 2013, but coming off a 42-save season, he figured he was better off declining his player option and trying to net another multiyear contract on the open market rather than sit around and watch Mariano Rivera diminish his value next season.
But there were two problems with this mode of thinking. First, there weren't many teams in need of a closer, and second the Yankees saddled him with a qualifying offer, upping the cost of acquiring him. (A team that signs a player who received a qualifying offer must forfeit a first-round pick, except for the teams with the top 10 picks, which are protected. They would forfeit a second-round pick instead.)
As a result, we have heard very little about Soriano thus far.
The team that signs him probably will fit one of two profiles: a team with a protected first-round pick, or a team that is absolutely going for it in 2013. The 10 teams with protected picks are the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. The cost would still be high for the Pirates though, as they have a second pick in the first round (No. 14), and would have to forfeit that pick for signing Soriano. However, many of these clubs have either fortified their bullpen (like the Cubs and Rockies) or are unlikely to contend and would thus have little need for Soriano.
It would be throwing caution to the wind to surrender a first-round pick for a relief pitcher -- any relief pitcher -- but you also could make the case that it would be unwise for teams to cough up a second-round pick for a reliever. That, in conjunction with the fact that there are very few teams who need a closer may affect the money for which Soriano signs. But even if he needs to settle for a setup role, someone will eventually sign him. The question is who? Let's break down the five teams most likely to sign Soriano this winter.