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Braves Get Soriano

Rafael Soriano, that is, from the Mariners. The Braves and John Schuerholz finally pulled off a trade, and one that strengthens one of the key areas of our team - the bullpen. Soriano is a talented right-handed flame-thrower from the Dominican Replublic. He has struggled with injuries since he first made it to the big leagues back in 2002, part of the reason he was converted from a starter to a reliever.

It is a bit sad to see Horacio Ramirez leave. After having a terrific Spring Training in 2003 he made the team as the fifth starter and amazed everyone by going 12-4. Since then though he has only had one injury-free year, suffering through various injuries in both 2004 and 2006. His biggest injury disappointment was in 2004 when he got off to the best start of any Braves starter by posting an ERA of 2.28 and making eight out of his nine starts quality starts in the first two months of the season before sitting out until September with left shoulder tendonitis. The injury suffered last year was a strained hamstring.

Soriano has spent his share of time on the DL. He was out 20 days in 2002 with a strained right shoulder. In 2004 he was limited by both a strained oblique muscle in Spring Training and then right elbow pain which led to Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow August 17th. He began making rehab appearances in June of 2005 and was recalled to the Majors in early September. Last year Soriano was enjoying a very productive Major League season when he was struck behind the right ear by a Vladimir Guerrero line drive on August 29th, the Mariners shut him down for the remainder of the season. (Intersetingly, HoRam was also struck by a line drive this year, off the bat of Lance Berkman.)

Soriano will be the power arm in the bullpen we lacked in 2006. Last year he held batters to just a .204 batting average while posting a 1.08 WHIP - lower than any pitcher on the Braves staff except for Bob Wickman. He has long been considered a candidate to be a future closer, but has mainly been used as a setup man in Seattle, collecting just four saves in his big league career.

I would rate this as a VERY GOOD trade for the Braves. We pick up a critical reliever who we will control for two more years before he becomes a free agent, and we traded from a position of strength - left-handed starting pitching. Honestly, I feel we got the better end of this deal. With the prices for even marginal relievers skyrocketing, we secured one of the best in the game for a pitcher who has yet to prove he's anything other than a back of the rotation injury-prone starter. I have a feeling that the Braves are not done tonight. There's a lot of talk about the LaRoche-Gonzalez deal with Pittsburgh as being all but done pending physicals. The Braves may also be trying to leverage the Pirates against the Angels to get more in return.

As a closing note, I said several times that Horacio Ramirez would be the first player traded this winter by the Braves, and darn-it if I wasn't right. I don't know how I knew, I just had a feeling. It's nice to be right every once in a while.

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