UPDATE: This move is now official, per a press release from the Cubs.
Consider the source on this -- Gordon Wittenmyer -- who's been wrong before, but it appears the Cubs are close to signing free-agent reliever Rafael Soriano:
The Cubs appear close to agreeing to terms with free-agent closer Rafael Soriano on a deal that could be complete by the end of Tuesday, according to sources. Soriano, who had an All-Star season for Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay in 2010, recently switched agents to Chicago-based Alan Nero — who also represents Maddon. Entering the day Tuesday, the Cubs were believed to be one of two teams — along with Seattle — still in the mix for Soriano, who has been working out in the Dominican Republic. Soriano would be expected to sign a minor league deal and make two or three minor league appearances before joining the beleaguered Cubs bullpen by mid-month.
Given that Soriano hasn't pitched since last year and missed spring training, sending him to the minors for two or three appearances isn't a bad idea.
Soriano has closed for several teams, including Maddon's Rays in 2010, when he led the American League with 45 saves. Last year with the Nationals he posted 32 saves, but had a terrible second half in which he had a 6.48 ERA and 1.6 WHIP. He had five blown saves in 15 opportunities after the All-Star break, which might have made teams leery about signing him.
Soriano will likely have some sort of incentive-based deal once he comes to the major leagues. The bullpen could use some help and it certainly can't hurt to try out Soriano.
He's worn No. 39 and No. 29 through most of his big-league career, but if the Cubs have an overstock of "SORIANO 12" jerseys left over for sale, if Soriano wore No. 12 and was successful, he could even help replica-jersey sales.
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