Soriano Signs with Nationals and Other Hot Stove Simmerings

Rafael Soriano is now a National treasure.

The former Yankees closer signed a two-year, $28M contract with the Washington Nationals that includes a vesting option for a third year. A hefty price, both financially and in terms of having to surrender a first-round draft pick, but the move makes sense for the Nats.

Last year, Soriano was a lock-down, lights-out closer in the ultra-competitive, hitter-happy AL East, so there’s confidence he can perform at a similar level in the NL in 2013. Of course, he doesn’t have to, as the Nationals already have Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard at the back of their bullpen. But, Storen is only a year removed from elbow surgery, and Clippard has been worked hard over the past three years, appearing in over 70 games in each. It’s presumed Soriano will take over as the closer, moving Storen to a setup role, and pushing Clippard to the 7th inning. Of course, any of the three are capable of closing, and roles could be switched. This is the way elite teams are being built these days — multiple aces in the rotation, multiple closer-types in the bullpen. Meantime, the Mets worked out Brian Wilson, but likely won’t be offering him more than a minor-league deal.

One other reason the Soriano signing makes sense for Washington: by lengthening the bullpen, he’ll alleviate some pressure on the Nats’ young guns — specifically Stephen Strasburg, but also, to a degree, Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman. Most obviously, the 24-year-old Storen won’t necessarily have to close out 70-80 games now that Soriano is around. Further, the hard-throwing Rodriguez can stay in a less stressful, 6th-or-7th inning matchup role. When you have three rock-solid relievers like Soriano, Storen, and Clippard more or less shortening the game, starters don’t have to push to get past the 6th inning — and manager Davey Johnson can reign in his horses early in the season, keeping them fresh for the stretch run and postseason. With this much bullpen depth, there’s no need for any of the starters to pitch beyond 190-200 innings. In contrast, the lack of quality bullpen depth in Flushing is concerning, particularly because so much is expected of youngsters Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndegaard, etc.

Speaking of the Nationals and Mets, a former catcher for both just signed a deal with the Dodgers — Jesus Flores. I’m sure Mets fans don’t care much about that, now that Travis d’Arnaud is in the organization, but Flores has always shown potential to be an above-average backstop, offensively and defensively. Injuries have held him back, and though he may not project as an everyday receiver, I can see him being a solid backup.

In other news, Manny Corpas signed with Rockies, getting a spring training invite. The Phillies signed reliever Juan Cruz to a minor-league deal, and the Marlins signed both Michael Wuertz and Nick Green. Kyle McLellan signed with the Rangers. Almost-Met Adam Loewen has returned to Canada, signing with the Blue Jays, and utility man Delwyn Young inked a minor-league deal with the Nats.

I think that’s it for the moment.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. NormE January 16, 2013 at 11:53 am
    A very good point about lengthening the bullpen to alleviate stress on the young rotation. Rizzo is ok.
  2. Dan B January 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm
    Davey Johnson’s bullpen is beginning to look a lot like the 1986 bullpen with Orosco, Myers, and McDowell (still can’t believe he is a coach).
    I think the Mets need a backup catcher still, not only for now with d’Arnaud in the minors but also after d’Arnaud gets promoted. If Buck has a decent season, he would be good tradebait. Even if he doesn’t, I bet the Mets would love to unload his contract.
    • Mike B January 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm
      Yeah lets get that back up catcher taking care of so we can worry about the little things like a CF, LF, leadoff hitter and 5th starter. I think they should have a season ticket appreciation winner each home game and that person plays CF and bats lead off.
      • Joe January 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm
        Hey. I think the Mets will find some 5th starter and make so regarding corner outfielders. Now, CF and lead-off … might be more tricky.
      • TexasGusCC January 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm
        Mike B, great idea. The fans deserve it.
  3. DaveSchneck January 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm
    You left out a comment about Met news, or was that all the blank space at the end of your post? Excellent point about a deep pen protecting the starters. This is why it is so important for Alderson to not throw in the towel on 2013. The need to add assets, especially to the pen, and someone that can field in the OF, or anywhere for that matter. This will provide protection to the young SP jewels in the form of less innings pitched (deeper pen), less pitches thrown (defense) and less stressful innings (defense and offense). It is not just about writing off 2013 because the Nats and Braves have much better rosters. The need to create as good an environemtn as possible to benefit the beloved core as well as the paying fans.