Show Me The Money

I’m not sure exactly when it became newsworthy that a baseball player would be seeking as much money as he can get in free agency, but nonetheless, Buster Olney today reported that former, and now likely to stay former, Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano is out to make as much money as he can this offseason.

The question of what role Rafael Soriano will play for his next team is very much secondary to what his salary will be. In other words, if some club was willing to pay him to be its bullpen catcher for $45 million over the next three years, Soriano would consider it; he is looking for a lucrative deal, which is absolutely his prerogative.

Remember back to less than one week ago when it was big news that Soriano would consider becoming the setup guy in New York?  Not so big news now, as Olney mentions, Soriano will take any job that brings in the green.  The real question all along was whether or not the Yankees were willing to give up their first round draft pick, something they adamantly claimed that they weren’t prepared to do.

When you think of baseball, you don’t necessarily think of sign-and-trade scenarios, but here’s one case in which that might work.  A team like the Nationals could essentially sign Soriano with the intent of trading him to the Yankees, while giving up only a third round pick to the Tampa Bay Rays as compensation (because their first round pick is protected and their second round pick would go to Philadelphia as compensation for signing Jayson Werth who’s ranked higher than Soriano by the Elias Sports Bureau).  New York would then find a way to compensate the Nationals for the loss of a third round pick, and Soriano would go to New York.

That may sound like a lot of collusion going on just to screw the Rays out of a first round draft pick.  Would MLB allow such a transaction?

You better believe it.  Rob Manfred, MLB’s VP of labor relations and human resources explains with regard to a potential case a couple years ago:

We do think it’s possible to effectuate a sign-and-trade consistent with the Basic Agreement. The player would have to give an advance waiver of the right not to be traded. The union has been reluctant to do this in the past, but indicated some willingness to allow it here. So it is possible to pull off a sign-and-trade.

There are a variety of difficult issues surrounding a sign-and-trade deal and, yes, we’ve had conversations with the clubs that are potentially involved.  The rules of free agency in the Basic Agreement, collectively bargained by MLB and the Players Association, allows for a trade or assignment of a signed free agent to another team prior to June 15 “if the player gives written consent to such a transaction.”

This is advance consent. Usually the union has been against that. They’ve said it has to be in the context of a known deal. But they said they’re prepared to do it in this case, which makes the sign-and-trade possible.

Another option that exists, would be for the Rays to sign and trade Soriano.  This idea gets a little murkier, considering that both teams are in the same division, but the Rays are likely just as unwilling to hand Soriano over to their division rivals as the Yankees are to hand over a form of compensation other than a draft pick. Can the mutually disagreeable somehow be the most agreeable route?