Grading the Rafael Soriano Contract for the Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals and free-agent closer Rafael Soriano have agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract with a vesting option for a third year. The option vests if Soriano finishes at least 120 games over the first two seasons.
Jeff Passan had it first:
Source: Rafael Soriano agrees to two-year, $28M deal with Nationals. Deal contains vesting option for third year. Story coming on Y! Sports.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2013
The Nationals bullpen seemed to be set prior to the move—aside from lacking a left-handed specialist—with Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen both capable closers.
Owner Ted Lerner, however, felt otherwise. He was very much involved in luring Soriano to Washington and was willing to offer the money agent Scott Boras wanted.
While it seems to be overkill at first glance, this move is an absolutely stellar one for the Nationals.
For starters, they have just acquired an All-Star-level closer who can bring them one step closer to success in the postseason. It's doubtful that this move was inspired by Storen's downfall in last season's NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the signing shores up any qualms about that role moving forward.
With Soriano in the fold, general manager Mike Rizzo can get creative with the rest of the team.
He can choose to leave Clippard, Storen and Soriano (ClipStoSo?) together at the back end of the bullpen, forming one of the most formidable trios in the league. Teams would then have to beat guys like Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann over six innings—something that shouldn't be too easy to accomplish.
Or, Rizzo can package either Clippard or Storen with outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse to stock up an already deep farm system. Morse is without a starting spot given the re-signing of Adam LaRoche and the acquisition of center fielder Denard Span.
What should the Nationals do with their surplus bullpen arms?
There's also one other option, and one that's purely speculation on my part. If Rizzo really wanted to get creative, he could package Morse, Clippard/Storen, top prospect Anthony Rendon and another minor league arm to acquire yet another front-line starter.
Again, that's purely speculation.
Regardless of what Rizzo chooses to do, the signing of Soriano was a fantastic move by the upper-management of the Nationals.
He provides the team with a stable presence in the ninth inning, as well as several options for Rizzo to consider in order to improve his team even further.
Lerner deserves a ton of credit for essentially orchestrating this deal.
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