Former Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz agreed to a $3 million, one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox, and Jason Kendall got a $6 million, two-year contract from Kansas City on Friday as players and teams kept making moves following the recent winter meetings.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay finalized its trade with Atlanta, acquiring right-hander Rafael Soriano – another former Mariner – and agreeing to a $7.25 million, one-year contract with the reliever. And Washington completed its $6 million, two-year contract with 14-time All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
Soriano became a free agent after the season, then surprised the Braves this week when he accepted salary arbitration. Atlanta already had agreed to deals with free-agent relievers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, so the Braves traded Soriano to the Rays for right-hander Jesse Chavez. Soriano had to approve the deal, and he can’t be traded by the Rays without his consent before June 15.
Soriano had a career-best 27 saves in 31 opportunities for the Braves. In 752/3 innings, he struck out 102 while walking 27.
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Tampa Bay had 22 blown saves this year – eighth most in the major leagues. Still, owner Stu Sternberg hadn’t wanted to spend that much on relief.
“Last week, at this time, Stu said there wouldn’t be a $7 million closer. Today, there’s a $7 million closer. Markets change,” Rays president Matt Silverman said. “This isn’t about a modest improvement in a place where we had depth. It’s a real need. It’s a luxury that other teams can afford. It’s something, while we can’t necessarily afford it all the time, we’re going to enjoy having someone like (Soriano).”
Putz is 23-19 with a 3.24 ERA and 103 saves in 337 relief appearances over seven major league seasons with Seattle and the New York Mets. An All-Star in 2007, Putz was 1-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 29 games for the Mets last season before undergoing season-ending arthroscopic surgery June 9 to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.
“He passed the physical with flying colors and we couldn’t be happier with what was communicated to us,” White Sox general manager Ken Williams said.
Kendall is a .290 hitter over his 14-year career. The 35-year-old made three All-Star teams from 1996-2000 but hit just .241 with two homers and 43 RBI last season with Milwaukee.
Among lower-level free agents, three right-handers agreed to minor league contracts: Elmer Dessens with the New York Mets ($700,000 in majors, $90,000 in minors), Josh Towers with the Los Angeles Dodgers ($700,000 and $100,000) and Ryan Speier with the Nationals ($425,000 and $90,000).