Rafael Soriano had to wait a while to get his free agent payday, but at least he got it. Much like nearly every other reliever experiencing the free agent market this offseason, Soriano was able to cash in for an absurd amount of money. The Nationals will pay the veteran right-hander $28 million for two seasons of work, though the contract has a highly unusual structure. The reliever will actually make $7 million in each of his two seasons and then receive deferred payments covering the remaining $14 million between 2018 and 2025. Weird! Who even thinks of these things? Soriano’s new deal also contains a $14 million option for 2015 should he complete 120 games over his first two seasons with the Nationals.
Here are a couple of things we know about the Nationals: 1) the team is one certain to compete, and it may be the best in the National League, and 2) the bullpen is one area that could use improvement. Using these two, not even close to all-encompassing bits of knowledge, signing Rafael Soriano theoretically makes a lot of sense. Thing is, as we’ve mentioned more times than I care to count, bullpen arms can be found and molded using all sorts of methods. Rafael Soriano has often been a fine reliever, but he’s had his down years just as any other non-ridiculous closer has.
After a puzzling and disappointing 2011, Soriano bounced back to handle closing duties for the Yankees in 2012 after Mariano Rivera went down for the count quickly last April. He handled the role admirably, posting a 2.26 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 9.18 K/9 rate, and cutting his walks back down to the normal range. An 88% strand rate certainly didn’t hurt matters, and while Soriano’s season was impressive, it was still comprised of a mere 67 2/3 innings. This is a particularly brutal contract in that it will cost the Nationals $28 million and Soriano will only earn half of that amount per FanGraphs’ valuation system should he repeat his video-game-insane career year from 2009 twice. Think about that for a second. At least the Nationals can take solace in knowing their team is an excellent one, and that it’s within their control to make sure that third year never comes into play.