The Washington Nationals have signed free agent reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal with a vesting option for a third season, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo. The option for 2015 will vest if Soriano finishes 120 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, ensuring he'll be Washington's closer during the life of the contract.
Soriano served as the closer for the Yankees last season after Mariano Rivera tore his ACL at the beginning of May, and saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA for the AL East champions. Soriano also struck out 69 hitters in 67 2/3 innings for New York. After the season, opted out of his contract with the Yankees that would have paid him $14 million in 2013, received a $1.5 million buyout, and declined the Yankees' $13.3 million qualifying offer in order to test the free agent market. After a rough start to the winter, Soriano eventually made his money back after opting out, and then some.
With the signing, the Nationals will lose their first round pick in June's amateur draft, and the Yankees will receive a compensation pick. Soriano will join a crowded Nationals bullpen that already includes long-time closer Drew Storen and 2012 closer and long-time setup man Tyler Clippard. Washington's bullpen had a 3.23 ERA last season, and despite losing Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez, was still in a good place for the 2013 season. Adding Soriano makes them better, but the amount of money they're spending on him (including the loss of the draft pick) makes me think that the slight upgrade isn't necessarily worth it.
I'm also curious as to where this leaves Michael Morse. Morse became expendable last week when the Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche, and the team was apparently seeking a reliever in exchange for Morse. With Soriano in the fold, the Nationals really don't need another reliever, and the team is so solid overall that trading Morse for young talent might end up being the way they go, just because there really isn't any other way to improve their club for 2013 after signing Soriano.
The signing of Soriano is a marginal upgrade for the Nationals at a high cost, but Mike Rizzo is going all-in for 2013 by bringing him in.