The Nationals brass has made quite a splash this offseason over-paying for both Werth and LaRoche, filling the lineup with defense and pop. Defense is great and it will without a doubt make life much easier for our pitchers, but more needs to be done. As many have reported over and over this offseason, we need pitching, both starters and relievers. Which brings me to this question.
Although we have gone for seemingly every single free agent available in the past 3 months we have not talked about Rafael Soriano. Should the Nats be pursuing the former All Star?
Lets take a quick look at his 2010 numbers with the Rays.
64 Games. 56 Games Finished. 62.1 IP. 1.73 ERA. 45 Saves. 57 K. 0.802 WHIP. .212 BABIP.
Wow, he was the definition of dominant last year while with the Rays, even though he had to play the Red Sox and Yankees 18 times each. And that's not even the scary thing. Those insane WHIP and ERA numbers are not career highs, those came in 2003 where he put up a 0.792 and 1.52 respectively. The potential is there for greatness and he has been a model of consistency over the past 6 years, never posting an ERA above 3.00 or a WHIP above 1.150.
There are many who will say that the Nats will be content to fill the closer role from within; Burnett, Storen, Balester, or even Henry Rodriguez. But each of those players have issues that could seriously hamper their ability to finish games.
- Burnett has, until last year, been used extensively as a LOOGY and doesn't have 9th inning experience.
- Storen will be a 2nd year player who blew 2 of 7 save opportunities last year.
- Although Balester has great stuff and the best mustache in baseball, he has struggled severely with control in the past (See: Weekes and Reynolds).
- Henry Rodriguez can hit 100 on the radar gun, but he suffers from Rick Vaughn syndrome; he has no idea where its going.
Looking at the options out there, no contender has the need or willingness to pay top dollar for a lights-out closer like Soriano. The Red Sox have Papelbon, Yankees have Rivera, Rangers have Feliz, Giants have (Fear the Beard) Wilson, Twins have Nathan and Capps, and the Phillies have Lidge. There has been talk of the Yankees giving him a longer deal and keeping him around for the Post-Rivera-Era but I find that a last-resort. Which leaves the Nationals.
I think that a contract around 3 years/$21-24 million could get a deal done, solidifying the back end of the Bullpen and making our team that much better. In terms of extra cost to the team, Soriano is a Type-A Free Agent, which means he would normally cost a team a 1st round draft pick if they signed him (since he accepted arbitration). The Nats however were in the bottom 18 teams in the league which means that their 1st round pick is protected, and the 2nd round pick went to the Phillies with the Werth signing, so the Nats would only be losing a 3rd round pick for Soriano. Not such a loss at all.
One of the beautiful things about the way Rizzo runs things is that sometimes you never know when something is in the works until it happens (See: Werth). He might have already made an offer to Soriano's agent. Yep, you guessed it. Scott Boras.
I'm not saying that this signing is imminent or even close, all I am saying is that I think this should be something that the front office should seriously consider if they really intend on improving the bullpen.
Thoughts? Discuss in the comments.