Jeff Passan broke the news, which I found out about only by chance late Tuesday afternoon (silly me, trying to do “work” or something). Rafael Soriano to the Nats on a 2yr/$28M deal with a third option year that only vests with a relatively unattainable 120 “games finished” plateau reached.
Wow. Did not see this coming.
Was this a reaction move to Drew Storen‘s meltdown in the 9th inning of NLCS game 5? Adam Kilgore is reporting that the Nats owner Ted Lerner was “heavily involved” in the transaction, likely because of the amount of money involved and perhaps as a sign of the 2013 mandate to win it all.
Two quick reactions from a roster management perspective:
- First off, we can call off the need for lefty relievers. Soriano’s so good against both righties and lefties that he can be the Loogy.
- Secondly, I’m guessing that either Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen is officially on the block. The team certainly could have made the argument that they had too many right handed, back of the rotation candidates BEFORE today. Now they’ve got three closer-quality arms but only one closer job. And clearly Soriano is going to be the closer. If you look at his career stats, when he’s closing he’s lights out. 185 ERA+ last year for New York, a 237 ERA+ as Tampa’s closer in 2010. Clippard and Storen are good, but they’re not that good. One or the other is likely traded now, so as to clear a log-jam of RH arms in the pen. They *could* send down guys like Stammen or Storen (they have options available) but they’re too good to make way. More likely is a trade.
New Look 2013 bullpen: Soriano closing, Clippard or Storen setting up, Henry Rodriguez and Mattheus in 7th inning roles, Duke as loogy/long-man, Stammen as 6th-7th inning/long man and Bray as the loogy. Or perhaps Garcia makes the team while Bray pitches in AAA waiting for an injury. Or perhaps Clippard and Storen both stay, and both Bray and Garcia start in AAA. Or perhaps Clippard or Storen get packaged with Morse to bring back (as we’ve been saying for a while) both a lefty reliever AND some prospect depth.
I can see the blogosphere criticizing this deal for three reasons.
- That’s a lot of money for a closer (I think it makes him the highest paid closer in the game), and the deal is surprising in that Soriano now will easily earn more than the rest of the bullpen combined, a stark departure from Mike Rizzo‘s parsimonious methods of building bullpens lately.
- Yet another Scott Boras client for the Nats. By my count that’s now seven Boras clients in the Nats system and five on the MLB roster (others: Espinosa, Werth, Goodwin, Harper, Rendon, Strasburg). I hate the lazy narrative that Rizzo is somehow Boras’ b*tch, but we’re about to hear it again. Check the agent database: yes we have a lot of his clients but so does Texas (7), Boston (8), Kansas City (6) and Detroit (6). Boras just has a lot of good players, and the Nats are a good team where players want to come to play.
- This costs the Nats their 2013 first round pick. It wasn’t nearly as high a leverage pick as before (#33 overall with a couple of compensation picks pushing it down from the #30 spot as last year’s best record would have indicated). I’m sure the argument will be that Soriano > back-of-the first round pick.
$14M for a closer is a lot of money. But hey, its not my money. If we weren’t sure of it before, the Nats are now *really* officially saying that they’re going for it in 2013. I’ll have to re-do both the salary and the WAR worksheets when I get some time to see how this factors in.