The Atlanta Braves off-season just got a bit more interesting. Reliever Rafael Soriano has decided to accept arbitration and remain with the Braves for 2010, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Through arbitration, the Braves will likely end up paying Soriano anywhere from $6.5 to $8 million for next season. With $10 million plus already committed to Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, it is likely that the Braves will explore ways to trade Soriano -- something they would need his approval for from now until the middle of June.
With Soriano likely relegated to a setup role in the early innings, he and his agent may be inclined to ask for a trade. In fact this could have been the strategy all along -- to take the guaranteed money and let the Braves do the leg work in finding another team that needs his services.
Fitting his salary into the bullpen certainly seems outside of the budget of the Braves, so if they cannot trade him something else will have to give. This could affect who they tender contracts to next month, as someone like Kelly Johnson may no longer be affordable. They could also choose to trade both Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez to free up salary space, attempting to land a cheaper starting pitching option in return for one.
Soriano also risks being cut in spring training and his salary not being guaranteed. There are some fancy baseball rules behind that (which I'm sure we'll learn in the coming days), but surely he and his agent gave that some thought.
Of course, if the Braves keep Soriano and are able to fit him into their payroll, then the Braves suddenly have the best bullpen in baseball -- a nice commodity for a manager who loves to use his bullpen.
The biggest impact here is how this move will affect the other moves the Braves may be planning. The next couple of days will be interesting, to see if Atlanta makes any trades to free up salary. The Braves other free agent who was offered arbitration, Mike Gonzalez, has apparently declined arbitration.