Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soriano, Why Not?

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.


  1. Another reason to sign Soriano is to keep the White Sox from signing him, thus protecting the draft pick we get for losing Dunn. If Soriano goes to the Sox, then their 1st round pick goes to Tampa instead of the Nats - we get their 2nd round pick instead.

  2. Indeed, why not? Last year at this time, we got an All Star closer for half a season, who turned into a possible All Star catcher for years to come.

    P.S. I thought you were talking about Alfonso Soriano at first. I was preparing remarks questioning Mike Rizzo's sanity.

    P.P.S. Kudos on the regular posting these days. It's been easing my offseason hunger for baseball. In the words of Rogers Horsnby, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

  3. Great analysis and much appreciated to read this along with courtRFK428's comments. That potential 36 times a season vs. the combo of the Yankees/Red Sox says a lot about this guy.

    For a 3rd round pick, why not if you can get him without any trade restrictions and at $7 million per year. Think about how much he is worth at July 31st if the Nats aren't in contention. He is in the Top 5 of closers and has Post Season experience.

  4. Because he won't cost $7-8 million, it'll be more like $10 million per. and count me in the group that values the 3rd round pick higher than 3 years for a closer on a non-competitive team.

    it's an interesting idea, but IMO, pass.

  5. I hear you, Dave, but it's not for three years of a non-competitive team. You can look at it as a partial-season deal - flip him in July for compensation that's better than a 3rd round pick. If a big-market team closer goes down possibly a LOT more (just imagine if Rivera goes down in NY, for example). And even if the Nats keep him, they may be contending by 2012, and should be contending by 2013

  6. I've been screeching for weeks on the blogs that the Nats should get Soriano. And I wouldn't flip him in July. We need a great closer next year and he could be it, plus he gives us all kinds of flexibility. With the money they haven't spent, this is a must do, and it would again send a signal that the Nats are serious.

  7. John C: I can't see the Nats making a multi-year deal with someone and flipping them at this deadline. knowing how much the baseball ops has to talk ownership into anything, it would be a real hard sell to get them to commit, then turn around and jettison at the trade deadline for younger players/picks.

    in theory, it could work lke it did with Capps, but in practice it would be atough thing to do.

  8. I agree with Dave's sentiments here. A 3rd round pick is extremely valuable in a baseball draft. It doesn't equate well to the 3rd round of the NFL draft, for instance, where 3rd round and higher picks get traded willy nilly. (At least with the Redskins... sigh.)

    But to echo Mac's comments, an investment in an extremely high quality closer to help secure a few more wins for the Nats could create future success and change the way the team builds pitching in the coming years. I think a push for Soriano wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

  9. we couldnt get a front of the line starter...take that money and solidify the back end of the bullpen. keep or trade he has way more value that a 2-4 mil FA dumpster diving 4th or 5th starter. and in the end could provide value beyond himself and his contract (i.e. prospects coming back in a trade)

  10. You go through six options "out there", and after dismissing them, conclude that that "leaves the Nationals." I think the list of options seems to me to be possibly five times as long as you seem to suggest. How does it follow (at least from Soriano's perspective), that the Nats are his logical choice after your six contenders are ruled out?

  11. Anonymous,

    I meant contender not as in "contender to sign" but as "contender to win (read: pay lots of money)". In that sense there are only a few listed, I wasn't going to spend an entire article going through each teams closers so I chose a select few.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!