Rafael Soriano's biggest issue

Updated: December 27, 2010, 9:54 AM ET
By Buster Olney

Rafael Soriano was like the Troy Tulowitzki of relievers in 2010, putting up the type of numbers that made him the most efficient player at his position. Consider his ranking among closers in the following categories:

ERA: 1.73, which was second to Billy Wagner's 1.43
WHIP: 0.80, the best
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 4.07, fifth-best
Opponents' OPS: .509, fourth-best

You wouldn't say Soriano was the best pitcher in the majors, but he has been the best reliever available on the free-agent market all winter. (We're not counting Mariano Rivera, who always intended to go back to the Yankees.) Yet we're in the final days of December, and Soriano is still without a job.

There is still time for his agent, Scott Boras, to do his thing and work out a big deal. But Boras is negotiating in a climate in which many of the teams whose decisions are driven by statistical analysis have taken a general philosophical stand against the idea of giving veteran relievers three-year contracts.

Not all teams are thinking this way. The Angels gave the 34-year-old Scott Downs a three-year, $15 million deal. Jesse Crain received a three-year, $13 million contract from the White Sox. Matt Guerrier and the Dodgers worked out a three-year, $12 million agreement. And most notably, Joaquin Benoit signed a market-shaping three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Tigers.