The Washington Nationals have bolstered their bullpen by signing former all-star relief pitcher Rafael Soriano, 33, to a two-year, $28 million contract that includes a vesting option for a third season.
By signing Soriano, the Nationals lose their first-round pick in the forthcoming first-year player draft.
Soriano pitched in the closer role for the New York Yankees in the 2012 season, taking over the position after Mariano Rivera, the career leader in saves, suffered a torn ACL. He recorded 42 saves (third in the American League) and posted a 2.26 ERA.
For his career, the 6’1”, 230-pound right-handed pitcher has recorded 132 saves with a 2.78 ERA.
Soriano will provide the Nationals with another option for closing out games and help to replenish a bullpen that lost key contributors Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez in free agency.
Last season the Nationals used a combination of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in the closer role. Storen, 25, missed a significant portion of the 2012 season and made only four saves after recording 43 in 2011. Clippard made 32 saves, but struggled to close out games late in the season.
The Nationals posted an MLB best record of 98-64 in 2012, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games in the divisional round. By signing Soriano to a $14 million per year contract—the highest for a closer in baseball—and losing a first round draft pick, GM Mike Rizzo has shown that the Nationals—after posting their first winning season since moving to D.C.—are no longer focused on the future, but rather are aiming to win in the present.
In addition to getting Soriano, the Nationals signed starting pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year, $13 Million contract and resigned first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $24 million deal earlier in the offseason.
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