Just when you think Mike Rizzo is done, he goes ahead and does something like this: inking free agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal with a vesting option for 2015 if he saves 120 games or more over the next two seasons, according to reports by Jeff Passan of Yahoo!. This is a huge move by the Washington Nationals front office for a ton of reasons.
Everyone assumed the Nationals were done after signing Denard Span and Adam LaRoche this offseason. Those two signings filled their biggest holes: a leadoff man and a left-handed first baseman. With those additions to the team the Nationals were already favored by many to win the National League in 2013. But they just got even better, which lead the likes of the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga (Twitter link) and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link) to question if anyone could top the Nats this year.
But now, what do you do with an overloaded bullpen? The Nats have this problem on their bench with Michael Morse and now they have it with their relievers, too. With that kind of contract, Soriano was obviously signed to be a closer, which likely puts Drew Storen out of a job. It has to be a crushing blow for Storen, who is surely still reeling from giving away Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.
In Soriano’s career, which has spanned 11 MLB seasons, he has posted a 2.78 ERA, a 1.046 WHIP and a 153 ERA+. He’s a proven late-innings bullpen commodity, and he did a great job filling in for an injured Mariano Rivera with the New York Yankees in 2012. He certainly adds depth to the Nats relievers.
So with that, the Nats probably have two options: trade Storen or trade Tyler Clippard. Both players should be eighth and ninth inning pitchers, and with Soriano on board, one of them won’t fit into that role anymore. Good closers are hard to come by in baseball, and both of these guys have shown that they are capable of being exceptional ones. I fully expect one of them to be traded at some point this offseason, though they don't necessarily have to be. We’ll put together a separate post on the Nats’ possible trades soon, because there are some key players on the block right now.
How’s that for your random Tuesday afternoon surprise? The Nats just keep getting deeper at all positions, and it’s hard to not count down the minutes until Opening Day.