Last week the Washington Nationals catapulted their bullpen into elite status by signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal.
The contract puts Soriano in the books as the second highest ever received by a relief pitcher in terms of annual payout and the largest contract agreement between a reliever and a new team. He is second only to Mariano Rivera who has two contract renewals with the Yankees for a $15 million average annual compensation. It is also only the second highest free agent contract for the Nationals, taking a back seat to Jayson Werth’s $18 million a year.
Soriano had 42 saves in 46 opportunities last year while filling in for the injured Mariano Rivera, and 45 saves in 48 opportunities in 2010 while he was with Tampa Bay. His 2.26 ERA lands him firmly in the average category as far as relievers were concerned this season, but his ability to keep opponents to a .155 BA with runners on base made dominant at damage control even after letting up a runs. He was particularly effect with two outs and runners in scoring position, allowing on 4 hits in those situations.
Soriano will join Tyler Clippard, who also had 30 plus saves last season, in the closer/reliever position. The Nationals starting rotation also proved they could get the job done last season, with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez both having at least 15 wins. In fact 4 out 5 Nationals pitchers who started at least 25 games had a winning record, and all 5 had at least 10 wins last season. Simply put, the Nats proved last year that they could win games down the stretch and make the playoffs and with the addition of Soriano they are making a strong case for a deep playoff run this year.