The Washington Nationals obviously feel like there's more than one way to build a pitching staff. Unable to make a huge splash with Zack Greinke and unwilling to meet the demands of several left-handed relievers on the free-agent market, the Nats made a big commitment to Rafael Soriano on Tuesday, signing him for two years and $28 million. The contract also calls for a vesting option for 2015 — all reported first by Yahoo! Sports' own Jeff Passan — meaning if Soriano is healthy and pitches effectively, it's practically a three-year deal.
Soriano in 2012 finished with 2.26 ERA and 69 strikeouts and 42 saves in 69 appearances, filling in flawlessly for Mariano Rivera. His addition to Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen gives the Nats one of the more talented bullpen back ends in the league. Storen was great for the Nats until Game 5 of the NLDS when the St. Louis Cardinals made the king of comebacks and stole the series.
As beat reporter Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post concluded in his Nostradamus-like post earlier this month, having Soriano and Storen gives Nats manager Davey Johnson "A" and "B" closers. Think Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco from the Mets, from back in the day. Clippard, another right-handed pitcher who actually is better against lefties, might be better suited for the "Orosco" role but ... the Nats will cross (or burn) that bridge when they get to it.
When they lost Greinke to the Dodgers, the Nats made a smaller splash with Dan Haren in order to fill out their starting rotation. But having the likes of Clippard, Storen and Soriano in any combination seriously shortens the opportunities opponents would have to mount a comeback. Assuming that Storen's meltdown in the playoffs was just a hiccup.
So, else does this deal mean?
• Scott Boras wins again! Soriano's agent stayed calm as other players who were not his clients signed deals this offseason. Soriano appeared to have dwindling choices but the money he received for the years is abou the best he could expect. And he has gone from a winning franchise, the Yankees, to one also on the verge of the World Series. Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, other big names for Boras, remain unsigned at the moment. It's not likely that either would sign in Washington, a franchise where Boras seems to have friends.
• After losing Soriano in free agency, along with Nick Swisher to the Indians, the Yankees get compensation and thus have three draft picks near the end of the first round — Nos. 29, 31 and 32. The Yankees figure to spend all of their allotted draft money, given their recent cheapness with the major league payroll.
• The Nats also re-signed David LaRoche and traded for Denard Span this offseason. They still have depth at second base, and with slugger Michael Morse, to possibly trade in order to shore up any weaknesses.