The Nationals signed veteran closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal. Soriano comes off of an outstanding season with the New York Yankees in which he garnered 42 saves and posted a 2.26 ERA, becoming the team’s full-time closer when Mariano Rivera suffered a season-ending injury.
Though Soriano does not have much playoff experience, his successful weathering of the Bronx bodes well for how he could handle pressure situations such as the 8th and 9th innings of a series-clinching game. This was no doubt a huge factor in GM Mike Rizzo’s decision to go for this deal, especially as fans remember how last year’s closer Drew Storen couldn’t make the pitch to get Cardinals hitters or the home plate umpires to bite on a third strike.
I almost brought up Soriano in yesterday’s article concerning Morse and his trade value, as most deals bandied about in the local and national media centered around swaps of Morse for a solid middle reliever. I opted not to wade too deeply into the “what if” pool, as I couldn’t imagine it hadn’t already occurred to most including Rizzo that there was a fit: a Boras guy at a position of need who’s just sitting out there and with a great shot to get that called third strike or flyball out against the Daniel Descalsos of the world in the clutch…
With this deal, Rizzo has not only solidified his bullpen (though another lefty or two down the road wouldn’t hurt) but enhanced his trade chips. Drew Storen now becomes as intriguing as Mike Morse in terms of what he could bring to the team, in his case either in setup duties or as a fit for another team looking for lightning in a bottle who is willing to give up players or prospects for him. This deal also erodes any imagined leverage had by other GMs looking to nab Morse in a preseason trade.
Such options were no doubt a key selling point when Rizzo brought his plans before the redoubtable “committee.” With big money going towards a reliever as well as a supplemental draft pick, previous iterations of said committee might have rejected it out of hand. One has to think that those committee members watched Game 5 of the NLDS in person with its exhilarating highs and excruciating lows, which might have helped make going along with the GM much easier to do than ever before. Credit goes to Der Kommisars for backing Rizzo’s plans rather than letting an ideal fit like Soriano go by.