Closer Rafael Soriano agreed to a two-year, $28 million deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, a club source said, bolstering the bullpen of a team primed to make a run at the World Series a year after a late-inning meltdown ended its postseason.
The deal includes a third year for $14 million that vests with 120 games finished over the next two seasons.
By signing Soriano, the Nationals forfeit the 29th pick in the first round of the June draft and more than $1 million in bonus-pool money that comes with it.
The agreement shocked the sport not only because of its size – at $14 million a year, Soriano's average salary is the highest for a closer – but the concern that the loss of the draft choice would limit his market.
Following Mariano Rivera's season-ending knee injury last year, Soriano stepped in to the closer's role for the New York Yankees and saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA. He opted out of a $14 million guarantee for 2013 season and chose to test the free-agent market, a move that looked as though it would backfire.
The Nationals have proven a connoisseur of Scott Boras clients, however, and stepped in to shore up a bullpen that this offseason lost left-handers Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez. While Tyler Clippard was solid as a closer last season and Drew Storen has closed games, the right-handed Soriano gives Washington bullpen depth to challenge the Atlanta Braves.
It continues a busy offseason for Washington, which finished the regular season with the best record in baseball and expects to have Stephen Strasburg for a full year. The Nationals signed starter Dan Haren to fill the spot of the departing Edwin Jackson and last week brought back first baseman Adam LaRoche.
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