Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The Washington Nationals shocked the baseball world and Nats' GM Mike Rizzo once again managed to fly under the radar before signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year/$28M dollar deal that adds a third closer option to the bullpen.
Rafael Soriano turned down the 1-year/$13.3M dollar qualifying offer the New York Yankees made, as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote this week, "... because he wanted an opportunity to close and he wasn't going to get it as Mariano Rivera's setup man in the Bronx." The 33-year-old, 11-year veteran saved 42 games for NY last season when Rivera was injured, posting a 2.26 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 24 walks (3.19 BB/9) and 69 Ks (9.18 K/9) in 69 games and 67.2 IP over which he was worth +1.2 fWAR.
Before turning down New York's qualifying offer, which guaranteed the Yankees draft pick compensation if Soriano signed elsewhere, the right-hander opted out of the third year of the 3-year/$35M dollar deal he signed with NY in January of 2011, taking a $1.5M dollar buyout instead of a $14M dollar salary so he could try his luck as a free agent.
Soriano was one of nine players who received qualifying offers that had a long wait this winter as teams were apparently unwilling to part with their top picks (provided they fell outside the top ten) to sign free agents as they were forced to under the rules of the new CBA. Asked about his clients' difficulty finding homes under the new system by ESPN.com's Mr. Crasnick last week, Soriano's agent, Scott Boras, told the reporter he was in no hurry:
"People call me all the time and say, 'Man, your players aren't signed yet,'" Boras said. "Well, it doesn't really matter what time dinner is when you're the steak."
Washington Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) picked up on the line and referenced it in a tweet tonight after it was announced that Soriano had signed a 2-year/$28M dollar deal with the Nats that includes an option for a third year in D.C. that vests if he finishes 120 games over the first two seasons of the deal:
I guess the @nationals are eating steak tonight.— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) January 16, 2013
Soriano, who'll make $7M in 2013/14, with the option for 2015 at $14M, will also receive, "... $14M in deferred salary, to be paid in 2018-25, reducing deal’s average annual value to about $11.8M," according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and MLB Network Radio host and ESPN writer Jim Bowden, who tweeted the following after the deal was announced:
Nats deal with Rafael Soriano is $7m in 2013, $7m in 2014 and the other $14m is deferred starting in 2018...the aav of deal is approx $11.8m— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 15, 2013
The deal with the Nationals makes Soriano the highest paid reliever in baseball. It also gives the Washington Nationals three ninth-inning options. Drew Storen saved 43 games in 2011, but the 25-year-old right-hander had elbow issues which required surgery and delayed the start of his 2012 campaign until the middle of July. With Storen sidelined, Tyler Clippard, 27, saved 32 games last season, but he was replaced as the main ninth inning option when he struggled late while Storen regained his previous form.
The Nationals' decision to sign Soriano surprised the baseball world and started yet another discussion about whether Washington was building depth or preparing for a deal. The two-year/$24 million dollar deal the Nats gave Adam LaRoche touched off another round of Michael Morse trade rumors. The addition of Soriano to the Nationals' bullpen started chatter about whether Storen or possibly Clippard was on the way out. Could Morse and a reliever form a package for a deal for the pitching the Nats are reportedly after this winter? "With Soriano on board, the Nationals most likely will trade Clippard or Storen," MLB.com's Bill Ladson speculated last night.
"Soriano’s addition bolsters the back of their bullpen," Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore wrote. "It could also allow the Nationals to trade a reliever from their deep relief corps," the WaPost writer added. Mr. Kilgore's colleague at the Post, Thomas Boswell wrote Tuesday night that the deal with Soriano signals that the Nationals are "all-in" as they try for a World Series Championship a year after they brought postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933.
FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi too thought the move signaled that the Nats were all in, and suggested that the move showed that the Nationals, "... didn’t want to take any chances that (former) closer Drew Storen would have a competitive hangover," following the Game 5 loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS. There was no word from the Nationals Tuesday night and no official confirmation of the deal.
"This deal had 'owner-endorsed' written all over it," the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell wrote last night. The Post's Adam Kilgore reported that a person familiar with the negotiations with Boras and Soriano said, "Owner Ted Lerner... was heavily involved in bringing Soriano to Washington." An owner that's all-in. A GM that's determined to put together a winner. A manager looking to go out on top... and now a high-end closer that addresses what some saw as a weakness late in the Nationals' run last fall. And they aren't necessarily done building...