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.