What the Soriano Signing Means for the Rest of the Nats Bullpen

One week after signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year
$24 million deal the Washington Nationals signed Rafael Soriano to a two year
$28 million deal. The reaction from Nats fans was varied and all over the
place. There were those that loved a deal that gave the Nats one of the best
bullpens in baseball and there were others that didn’t like the idea of giving
up a draft pick and payroll flexibility for a reliever.   

The Nats bullpen has been an issue
as of late as they were in need of a pitcher that can get lefties out. The back
end looked set with Storen, Clippard, and Stammen, and the only real issue was
who was going to fill those last two spots. It was starting to look like it
would come down to a Spring Training battle between Bill Bray, Henry Rodriguez,
and Erik Davis for those last two spots when Rizzo surprised everyone and
signed Rafael Soriano.

Soriano
has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be a set-up man and while nothing
should be counted out with Davey Johnson as the manager it should be expected
that Soriano will start the season as the Nationals closer. If he does falter
Storen and Clippard are both more than capable to take that role if the need be.
It shouldn’t be expected for Soriano to fail though. This is a pitcher with a
2.78 ERA career ERA over 11 seasons, a 2.30 ERA in the ninth inning, and 2.49
ERA in save situations.

Soriano
is a very fine reliever and while no reliever is worth the $13.5 million a year
he is getting that is how the open market values closers and the Nats are
fortunate to have him only on a two-year deal. Just last season the Phillies
signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four year $50 million deal. The Nats had two open
spots in the bullpen and instead of settling for someone like Brian Wilson
coming off of injury or fixing the price of Morse as a reliever the Nats signed
the best available player. This is what good organizations that are committed
to winning do. They fill needs not just with a player, but with the best
players.  

Now
the rest of the bullpen can start to take shape. Storen will move into the
set-up role and Clippard will be the seventh inning guy if needed. The duty of
getting lefties out can now fall to Stammen who has some interesting reverse
platoon splits with lefties hitting .198/.274/.331 off of him in 2012 and
righties .224/.309/.346. Stammen now becomes a guy Davey Johnson and the
Nationals can use in match-ups, but with Stammen’s overall success as a reliever
in 2012 and his ability to get both lefties and righties out he is more than a
match-up guy. The Nats bullpen is full of relievers that are better than
match-up guys.  

The
Nats now have a right-handed reliever who had a 2.85 ERA in 2012 in Ryan
Mattheus as the fifth guy out of their pen. This is a very strong bullpen and
it is made stronger because the Nats signed Soriano to strengthen the back end
and push the other relievers down into different roles instead of signing a
lesser pitcher. And while giving up the draft pick isn’t the easiest thing to
swallow it was a low first round pick with little to no chance to help the Nats
in 2013 or 2014 as much as Soriano will.

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The Nats have just started a winning cycle and may not have a
better chance to win than they do right now. After the 2015 season players like
Desmond, Zimmermann, and Clippard start hitting free agency, and while the Nats
would like to keep all of them that will be difficult. The signing of Soriano
makes what was the Nats weakest area, their bullpen, into a unit as strong as
their line-up, defense, and starting rotation.

One comment

  1. This should really be called a 2/$14m deal for Soriano, not $28m. $14m is what he’s costing over the life of his playing contract and $2m a year between 2018-2024 is chump chage. That less that what the Nats are paying for their minor leaguers…

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