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Nationals sign Rafael Soriano to two-year, $28 million deal

Jan 15, 2013, 2:27 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Getty Images

Well, this certainly came out of nowhere.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that free agent reliever Rafael Soriano has agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract with the Nationals, who lose their first-round draft pick in order to sign him.

Soriano was one of three remaining free agents with draft pick compensation attached. All three of them (Soriano, Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn) are represented by agent Scott Boras and there’s been all sorts of speculation that they’d struggle to secure multi-year deals, but Soriano at least has found a nice landing spot with a Nationals team that is flush with high-profile Boras clients.

Washington’s bullpen wasn’t exactly hurting, so it’ll be interesting to see how Soriano fits in with a group that already included Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as the late-inning duo. According to Passan the two-year, $28 million deal also includes a $14 million option for 2015 that vests if Soriano has 120 games finished in 2013-2014, which would essentially require his being the Nationals’ full-time closer.

Soriano stepped in as the Yankees’ closer when Mariano Rivera injured his knee last season and saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA. He’s battled injuries over the years, but when healthy Soriano has consistently been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 2.78 career ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower in six of the past seven seasons, but $14 million per year and a draft pick is an awfully big price tag for a reliever.

  1. darthicarus - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Mystery Team!

    Boras strikes again.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      Oh, ye of little faith.

    • b453841l - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      It’s good to be steak!!! -Rafael Soriano

    • fanofevilempire - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      Nats swinging for the fences, wait til the bills come due for all this spending.
      but I wouldn’t mind watching this crew, might be the only good reason to have
      Met games transmitted to your house.

      • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        We knew already that the payroll is going to climb over the next 2-3 years, as the young talent reaches arbitration eligibility, and several earn extensions. The Nats will be $100 million or so for 2013; wouldn’t be surprised if that’s $150 million or more by 2015.

      • tuberippin - Jan 16, 2013 at 12:29 AM

        “wait til the bills come due for all this spending”

        You must be forgetting that there is no salary cap in baseball, and their owner (Ted Lerner) is an 87-year-old man worth a shade under $4,000,000,000. It would seem as though he’s got plenty of money to burn.

        Make no mistake: Lerner realizes he’s close to the grave; he already brought baseball back to Washington, but that’s not enough to just bring it back. Washington has had baseball clubs in the city (most named the Nationals) since the late 1850s, and the only time it ever amounted to anything was 1924…a year before their current owner was born.

        Lerner wants to be the man to bring Washington its first championship baseball team.

  2. someguyinva - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Have to think they’ll be entertaining the idea of trading Clippard or Storen now, either in a package with Morse or separately.

    • alang3131982 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      eh — i think there are some concerns about Clippard’s health. In addition, it’s a nice safety net to have all three – otherwise they’re relying on Stammen, Henry Rodriguez, or Christian Garcia. It makes some sense really…

      • someguyinva - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        Yeah, it does make some sense, and you can never have too much pitching, and Davey likes his ‘A’ and ‘B’ closers, so there’s no real *need* to move Storen or Clippard.

        My only quibble is that there’s a lack of left-handers in the pen, so protecting a one-run lead against a team like the Phillies (for example) becomes a bit more challenging.

      • alang3131982 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM

        But they have Bill Bray! Soriano was pretty good against lefties last season and in 2010. He has a .305 wOBA for his career. Clippard actually had a reverse platoon last season and has a .264 wOBA for lefties. So they can handle some lefties. But I hear you, it’d be good to have a reliable one-batter lefty (LOOGY) guy. Also, they better not let Henry Rod face any elfties in meaningful situation this season

      • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        Clippard has been overworked the past 3 seasons, and clearly broke down last last season. It’s entirely possible he could get traded, and Soriano slides into the 8th-inning role. Soriano isn’t going to close with Storen (who still works relatively cheap) around.

        If Clippard stays, he and Soriano split the 7th and 8th, Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen split the earlier innings. They’re still talking about Christian Garcia being a starter, but after two TJS, it’s not clear whether he could handle the workload. That leaves Henry Rodriguez on the outside looking in, unless he shows in Spring Training that he’s finally gotten control over his 100-mph stuff. Zach Duke or Bill Bray is the lefty (unless a deal for Morse nets another lefty).

  3. mybrunoblog - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    And to all those who said Scott Boras had finally blown it for one of his clients, please stand up and be recognized.

    • hackerjay - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      Yeah, I love how people are always saying that Boras has lost his touch, and then he pulls out something like this. The guy’s a magician.

      • Ben - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

        I also don’t get why people hate on Boras at all. Some sort of weird knee-jerk reaction. All he does is get the most money for a worker for their work–I’d love to have Scott Boras help negotiate my next raise with my boss.

      • alang3131982 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        Soriano signed earlier in the year than he did when he signed with the Yankees as well — people jumped the gun on this assessment

      • bigharold - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        “I’d love to have Scott Boras help negotiate my next raise with my boss.”

        Me too. And, anybody that says they wouldn’t is either a liar or a fool.

  4. braddavery - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    14 million a year and a 1st round draft pick… for Rafael Soriano. A guy the Yankees couldn’t get rid of quick enough. WTF?

  5. deathmonkey41 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    Holy hell in a hand basket.

    • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:29 PM

      Could not have said it better myself. Soriano wasn’t even on the radar screen, in terms of moves Rizzo might make.

  6. kevinleaptrot - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Adam Kilgore of the WaPo had this story on 1/6. Eerie:

    • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      I had forgotten about that. Way to go Adam!

  7. ryanrockzzz - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I like it…depth never hurts. The Nats are clearly the team to beat in the NL East.

  8. garryfish - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Do the Yankees get the draft pick? What is it?

    • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      Yes the Yankees do get a compensatory draft pick it’s approximately the 35th or 36th overall pick.

      • jyoung1891 - Jan 15, 2013 at 10:11 PM

        Unless, of course, the Nats were to sign ANOTHER draft compensated free agent. (Just saying.)

    • lazlosother - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      I believe it is the 31st pick, 1st round.

    • number42is1 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      31st 1st round draft pick

      • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        The 31st pick is what the Nationals lose, But the Yankees get a compensatory pick which is sandwiched between the 1st and 2nd rounds.
        The order of the compensation picks after the 1st round are based on the teams qualifying offers and are/were in order:
        Yankees – Compensation pick for Cleveland signing Swisher
        Yankees – Compensation pick now for the Nationals signing Soriano
        Yankees – This no longer applies since the Yankees re-signed Ichiro their own player
        Nationals – This no longer applies since they signed their own player (LaRoche)

        After these picks the 2nd round begins.

  9. lazlosother - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    As much as I dislike Boras, I hope he can represent me at my next annual employee assessment.

    • lazlosother - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      Drat, Ben beat me to it.

  10. Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Boras… guy never ceases to amaze. He finds the sucker at the table every damn time.

    And Illitch wasn’t even in the room this time.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Meh, I don’t think it’s that big of an accomplishment. Remember, Boras got a 7 year deal for a different client with the same GM. In this case he got a 2 year deal with a vesting option. To be comparable, the Nationals should have signed for 4 years.

      In any case Boras at least got his client better salary and better job security, so it’s a win for Soriano/Boras and the Nats, the team I guess finally sucumbed to the Veteran Closer bug.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      I don’t want to gloat, but when everyone was saying he’d end up with the Tigers, I said no, no, no.

      • paperlions - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        So…you didn’t WANT to….but you did it anyway? :-)

      • historiophiliac - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:50 PM

        I was just clarifying that it wasn’t gloating. I was merely stating the truth for the record. Please note.

  11. uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    The Yankees now have 3 picks in the top 36 in this years June draft, nice very nice. Thank you Nationals.

    • no14mike - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      Something has to bring the average age of that team down from 42.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        Did you come up with that one all by yourself or did rooting for a loser for so many years make you so smart?

    • psuravens19 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      This isn’t the NFL and these draft picks don’t mean as much…

      • paperlions - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        They also don’t mean nothing.

      • djpostl - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        They mean more than you think.

        To find one good young player you need a half-dozen or more prospects, to get those prospects you need twice that number of draft picks probably.

        The game is shifting towards youth so the more the merrier. Any GM would tell you so.

      • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:43 PM

        A pick meant enough that several teams (including, it was rumored, the Red Sox) thought twice about signing Adam LaRoche. Allowing the Nats to sign him for less. Adam Kilgore described the situation:

        Let’s see. If Soriano took the Yankees’ one-year tender (which the Yankees needed to make to get the draft pick from the Nats), he would have gotten $13.3 million for one year. He actually got an average of $14 million for each of 2 years. This was hardly the contract Boras was looking for from (for example) the Tigers. So before anyone trots out the “Scott Boras runs the Nats” crap (yeah, probably too late for that), consider that Soriano didn’t get that huge contract.

  12. goskinsvt - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    Nats are going to be a frightening team next year with the addition of Span, Haren and Soriano, not to mention an unfettered Strasburg.

  13. natslady - Jan 15, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    OK, I did NOT see that coming. Henry, it’s been real, 100MPH is fun to watch but wild-pitches aren’t. Clipp & Store, keep your ACT together and let’s DO THIS!!!!!!

    • temporarilyexiled - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      This is how you stay ahead of the Braves. Hard to see your team NOT having the best record in baseball again. But there I go again making predictions I’ll no doubt pretend I didn’t make.

      • skids003 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        The Nats are the only thing in DC worth a crap.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        I’m rather fond of the Lincoln Memorial.

      • natstowngreg - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:46 PM

        Having the best record was a complete surprise. For 2013, not having the best record in MLB isn’t the goal; just make the playoffs, and actually win a series. Winning 3 series would be even nicer.

  14. jdd428 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    It’d really be sweet if they add Javier Vazquez now too.

    • kinggw - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Depth never hurts, and Vazquez would be an upgrade on what the Nats had last year for a spot starter (Wang/Lannan).

  15. jaysjunkie - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    Hey, I’m just happy to have him out of the AL East.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Jan 16, 2013 at 12:58 AM

      it still wont help the jays get out of 4th place so dont get excited junior

  16. chucklewis13 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    As the expression goes: “There is a sucker born every minute.” In this case, the Lerners, IIitch (Detroit) and formerly Tom Hicks(TRangers) have been The Avenging Agent’s suckers for years. Wasn’t it the Lerners that Boris hoodwinked them into giving Jayson Werth an insane 7 year $126mil contract and now, Boris has hoodwinked them again into giving Soriano a two year $28mil contract, in addition to giving the Yankees a 1st round draft pick. What an idiot owner. You can’t fault Boris for not knowing where the idiot owners reside.

    • shawndc04 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Umm, we won 98 games last year. Also talent now wants to come to Washington. We overpaid for Werth, but that contract is paying other dividends.

      • kinggw - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        Thank you. Werth’s contract was what you call the price of doing business. He was definitely overpaid, but his contract ensured the Nats a seat at the table whenever major free agents become available. Besides, the Lerners are exactly hurting for the money.

    • kindasporty - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      Who did Ilitch overpay for? The Ivan Rodriguez signing is pretty much what got the ball rolling to bring respectability to Detroit. Maglio may have been a risk at the time, but looking back he was worth every penny. Everyone and their brother thought Detroit was going to be the team to give in and give Soriano a big contract. They didn’t. I’d say that’s a pretty good track record with Boras.

  17. kardshark1 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I guess this means Brian Wilson gets 40 million a year.

  18. iamjimmyjack - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Wow. Scary good team if I’ve ever seen one.

  19. threeskis - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Park will still only be 65% full if they’re lucky…unless the Phils are in town to make it Citizens Bank Park South….Go Phils !!

    • kinggw - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      That only happens when the Phillies are winning and the Nats are awful. Seeing as how the Phillies are expected to be 3rd place at best in the NL East, their front running fans won’t be in DC in big numbers. With the season the Nats just had, they’ve probably added a few thousand bandwagon fans of their own.

  20. giantboy99 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Great move by the Nats in addition to having Steasburg pitch the entire season (2013).

  21. eagles512 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    He will help but that’s a huge overpay.

  22. millmannj - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    Yanks could have 20 picks in the first round and they still wouldn’t draft any player who would amount to anything at the major league level.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      True story, the Yankees have never drafted anyone into the major leagues. The entire team is a mirage built on FA/IFA spending and trades, none of which were draftees.

    • tchillen - Jan 16, 2013 at 12:29 AM

      Yeah. Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, and David Robertson have all had meaningless major league careers.

  23. mrobinson14 - Jan 15, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I hate Scott boras…

  24. drinkpeepee - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Has anyone reached out to Adam LaRoche for his thoughts on this deal? Didn’t they just nickel-and-dime him down to $24M/2 after being their MVP last year? Now they turn around and give a reliever more money when they have a logjam at his position?

  25. mianfr - Jan 15, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Very interesting signing.

    If you’re getting last year’s pitcher, you’re getting a rock solid reliever to strengthen a very talented but also very erratic bullpen. I just kind of got the impression toward the end of last year that he might implode and there was no way the Yankees would bring him back.

    He got progressively shakier as the season wore on, albeit in a subtle way that you’re not going to pick up on unless you watch a ton of Yankee games. It could be that was just pitching closer to his (still awesome) true talent level, or just general wear and tear from the length of the season, but any time I see a pitcher start to dip in quality, I get worried.

    From the Nationals’ perspective, though, it’s only two years, not a crazy amount, and their farm system/young talent is pretty spectacular and a very late pick isn’t going to add much to that.

    This is a long-winded way of saying it’s a fair contract.

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