On Thursday, right handed reliever Rafael Soriano decided to call it a career after 14 seasons in the big leagues. He finished with a career ERA- of 70 over 636.1 innings pitched for six different teams. The 36-year-old reliever's last contract was a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this past offseason, but his last full season in the Major Leagues was in 2014 with the Washington Nationals.
Soriano began his career as an amateur free agent signed by the Seattle Mariners in August of 1996, when he was 16. He made his major-league debut six years later, at the age of 22, in 2002 with the Mariners. He spent five seasons with the team, though he sat out most of 2004 and 2005 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He finished his Seattle career throwing 171.0 innings with a bWAR of 3.9, an RAR of 44, and an RE24 of 39.4. Though he is primarily known as a closer, Soriano started eight games out of his 116 with Seattle. He never started a game again after his rookie year in 2002.
After the 2006 season, Soriano was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez. Soriano had a fairly decent season in 2007: He threw 72.0 innings in 71 games, posting an ERA- of 68, FIP- of 94, and xFIP- of 81. Being fairly decent wasn't enough for Soriano, so he went a step above and improved upon his 2007 with a 2008 that featured an ERA- of 61, FIP- of 91, and xFIP- of 111. His K/9 rate went from 8.75 to 10.29, though his BB/9 went the other direction — from 1.88 in 2007 to 5.79 in 2008.
2009 served to be the year where Soriano hit his stride. He finished 52 out of 77 games he appeared in and allowed zero inherited runners to score. He posted an ERA- of 72, with an FIP- of 60 and an xFIP- of 69. Soriano had a career-high K/9 of 12.13, with a BB/9 of 3.21, an HR/9 of 0.71, and an H/9 of 6.30. Following that season, Soriano accepted arbitration offer from the Braves that then-General Manager Frank Wren said was unexpected. After Soriano returned to the Braves in words only, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jesse Chavez. Little did the Braves know that 2010 would be a career year for Soriano.
Pitching for the Rays served to be a good place for Soriano. Though his numbers weren't exactly career highs — except for saves, of which he recorded 45 — they were career changers. His numbers were solid and most of all, he was effective. For starters: 8.23 K/9, 2.02 BB/9, 5.20 H/9, 0.58 HR/9. Then you've got his 44 ERA-, along with his FIP- of 69 and xFIP- of 87. Out of 11 runners inherited, he let six score. He was worth 1.8 fWAR and 2.2 bWAR. What also came out of 2010 was an All-Star appearance, a couple of Cy Young votes (he placed 8th) and some MVP votes (he placed 12th). The Rays finished first in the AL East and made it as far as the ALDS before being eliminated by the Texas Rangers.
Soriano made his first postseason appearance with the Rays that year, and though it was a small sample size, it left a lot to be desired. He pitched three innings in three games, giving up three runs (all of them earned) — with all of them coming off home runs. Again, small sample size and the luck of the draw had the odds in favor of the Rangers making it to the World Series that year. He was granted free agency after the 2010 postseason and two months later, he signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees.
The first year didn't start off too well for Soriano. Of course, he did not have the closer role with the Yankees because Mariano Rivera exists and was the closer then, and when Mariano Rivera exists, you don't take the closer role away from him. Sandman aside, Soriano wasn't pitching well, and then was sidelined with an elbow injury for about three months. Upon his return, he was fairly decent again, serving as the Yankees' seventh inning man.
In 2012, Soriano started the year continuing his role as the seventh-inning man. He did quite alright, to say the least. Then came a couple of injuries to the Yankees: Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending injury, and David Robertson suffered a strained oblique that sidelined him for about a month. In that time, Soriano became the closer by default, but he stayed in the role even when Robertson returned to the team.
At the end of 2012, Soriano opted out of his contract and became a free agent. He then signed a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals. His career with the Nationals was above average at worst.
Though he was not at the peak of his career anymore, he was still a more-than-effective reliever worth 1.7 bWAR over two seasons. Soriano did show some decline, but nothing too drastic. He was demonstrating his age and the wear and tear of it toward the end of the 2014 season, though he appeared in two postseason games with the Nationals that year before the Nationals were eliminated by the Giants (it was an even year, after all).
In June of 2015, Soriano signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs and appeared in six games for them between July 20 and 30. He spent the rest of the season split between AA and AAA before being released on September 4. He found his last home with the Blue Jays, signing a minor league contract on February 28 this year, though visa troubles kept him out of camp. He finished his career less than a month later, retiring on March 17 without reporting to minor league camp.
Soriano had a strong career, one that featured him as a reliable, Proven Closer™. Though he's not one of the greats, he was very good and he had a career indicative of that.