Rafael Soriano announced his retirement after trying to make the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster out of spring training, ending a stellar career in the bullpens of several major league teams. He has a career 2.89 ERA and 207 saves over fourteen seasons and three seasons of 40+ saves.
Soriano came up with the Seattle Mariners in 2002 as a promising young starting pitcher, but was inconsistent until a 2004 injury added him to the growing list of pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery. After his recovery, he finally pitched a full season in 2006 and was in the majors to stay. The Mariners shipped him to the Atlanta Braves where he was a capable set-up man and sometimes closer for a few years. He broke out as a closer in 2009 with 27 saves, at which point the Braves traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was in Tampa that Soriano had his greatest success. In his one year there, he led the league with 45 saves and had a ridiculous 0.80 WHIP and 1.73 ERA. That year marked his only All-Star appearance and he also received some Cy Young Award and even MVP votes as well. He parlayed his career year into a two-year contract with the New York Yankees to set up for Mariano Rivera, but took on the closer role in the second year of that deal when Rivera’s season was lost to a fluke knee injury.
Soriano followed up his two years in the Bronx by signing with the Washington Nationals and again thrived, racking up 43 saves in his first season there in 2013. He started out the 2014 campaign in typical fashion and had a 0.97 ERA in the season’s first half, but he fell apart soon afterward and couldn’t seem to recapture the magic of his earlier years. The Nationals opted not to re-sign him when his contract ended.
Now 35 years old and coming off a disastrous second half of the season, Soriano had trouble finding work. The Chicago Cubs picked up the still-unsigned Soriano in June of last season but his 6.35 ERA in limited time didn’t help them much and they released him by September. He tried to catch on with the Blue Jays in spring training but decided his time as an active major leaguer was done. His 207 saves rank 44th all-time behind guys like Dave Smith and Gregg Olson and ahead of guys like Bobby Thigpen and Mike Henneman. They’re all guys who, like Soriano, are not all-time greats but are and will be fondly remembered by fans.