ALL-STAR CLOSER RECEIVES TWO-YEAR DEAL WORTH $28 WITH VESTING OPTION IN ’15
According to multiple reports, and first reported by Yahoo! Sports, the Washington Nationals signed right-handed All-Star reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal with a vesting option for 2015. The option will vest should Soriano finish 120 games across the term of the contract and would be worth an additional $14 million.
The deal makes Soriano the highest paid reliever in baseball.
The Nationals will have to surrender their first round pick (No. 29 overall) and the slot money assigned to it in compensation for signing Soriano.
Soriano, 33, was with the New York Yankees last season, going 2-1 with 42 saves in 46 chances. He compiled a 2.26 ERA and 1.167 WHIP in 67 2/3 innings with a 7.3 H/9, 9.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. He was an All-Star in 2010 with Tampa Bay when he led the American League with 45 saves and miniscule 1.73 ERA.
According to this article in The Washington Post citing an unnamed source, owner Ted Lerner was “heavily involved” in bringing Soriano to the Nats.
Soriano brings even more depth to an already stacked Nats bullpen. With the money invested — and his vesting option triggered on closing games — Soriano figures to gain most of the save opportunities. But the Nats now have three right-handed relievers that have saved a total of 123 games the past two seasons, with Soriano joining 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
Immediately upon hearing news of the signing, folks on social media were already speculating which “closer” the Nats were going to trade. But unlike the Michael Morse situation, I don’t see where the Nats “have to” make a deal to open space up for Soriano.
Clippard has been overworked the last two seasons and is due for a salary increase through arbitration this off-season and should command a hefty jump after closing last season and putting up big save numbers, so if the Nats felt like they needed to move someone, Clippard could be that candidate. But his changeup is equally impressive against right- and left-handed batters, so he also could become that de facto missing lefty in the late pen for manager Davey Johnson.
Plenty are suggesting that Drew Storen will be the odd man out and sent packing, but I don’t see that either. It’s true that he faltered in the epic Game Five meltdown against the Cardinals, but Storen possesses filthy stuff when worked regularly and will be completely healthy and recovered from the elbow surgery that limited him to 37 appearances last season.
I believe this is an “all-in” type of move to protect the Nats against the bullpen tiring out over the course of the season. Most of last year, the Nats pen was dominant, but it collectively struggled late in the season and into the playoffs, culminating in the Game Five loss to the Cardinals. Soriano will effectively push every reliever up an inning, shortening games by essentially sending an All-Star caliber closer out for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, allowing Davey to pick and choose how he wants to use his other relievers, including lefty Zach Duke and righties Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen.
Regardless of how the bullpen shakes out, this moves further cements the Nats as a central figure in the National League and as a big-time player in the free agent market for players they deem to be the right fit.