Deal official, Nationals introduce Soriano
Veteran closer adds depth, experience to Washington's relief corps
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made it official on Thursday evening, signing right-handed closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million contract. The deal also includes a $14 million option for 2015 that vests if Soriano finishes 120 games over the next two years.
Soriano declined the Yankees' $13.3 million qualifying offer, so the Nats will forfeit what is currently the 29th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, and the Yanks will receive what is currently the 32nd overall pick. Washington will also lose pool money from the Draft. The Draft order is still subject to change, depending on free agents Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn signing with other teams.
"The Draft pick is important," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "But picking at the end of the Draft -- where we are this year -- we examined the Draft pool and felt where we were picking and the talent pool that was out there ... it was a good time for us to forfeit the pick. It's never easy, because [the Draft] is where our bread and butter is. We felt the best strategy for us to win now and in the near future was to forgo the pick and get the talent."
Soriano, 33, found himself waiting a long time to sign because many teams were unwilling to give up a Draft pick. But he finally found a home in Washington. Soriano, introduced to the local media at Nationals Park during a news conference on Thursday, will wear uniform No. 29.
"Obviously, I've always been a patient person, and [agent] Scott [Boras] knows this about me," Soriano said through interpreter Luis Garcia. "Scott told me, 'Just bide your time, continue to work out, do what you need to do. When the time is right, obviously, it will happen for you.' I continued to work out, do my work, [showed] patience. When the opportunity in Washington came up, I thought it was a club I could help now and obviously help win a World Series."
Soriano had one of his best seasons in 2012, posting a 2.26 ERA with 42 saves for the Yankees, taking over closer duties after Mariano Rivera tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in early May. Soriano opted out of his contract with New York after he learned that Rivera was going to come back for the 2013 season. Soriano did not want to be a setup man.
Soriano, who joins a bullpen that already includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, has a 2.78 career ERA in 11 seasons spent with the Mariners, Braves, Rays and Yankees. The Nats signed Soriano after their bullpen struggled during last year's National League Division Series against the Cardinals, allowing 16 earn runs in five games. Storen, who ended the season as the closer, allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 9-7 loss in the decisive Game 5.
"The signing of Rafael Soriano wasn't based on one inning and one game at the end of the season," Rizzo said. "[Storen] is a young closer that was thrust into the closer role as a very young man and young Major Leaguer.
"We feel we benefit having Sori on the club, not only by pitching the ninth inning, but also by mentoring a good, young potential closer in Drew Storen. We feel we have multiple closers on this club. ... One of them is going to close out the seventh inning, one will close out the eighth, one will finish the game in the ninth, and we feel pretty good about that."
The Nationals first showed interest in Soriano during the General Managers Meetings in November. Managing principal owner Ted Lerner and Boras would work out the contract details a few weeks later. Of the $28 million in Soriano's deal, a total $14 million will be deferred.
"Mike contacted me, started the process and started to let me know -- baseball-wise -- that he wanted me involved," Boras said. "Monetarily, Ted was in Palm Springs, [Calif.], and so we met and talked about his concerns, issues and what had to be done to see if they could fit Rafael into the final structure of the Nationals. That part, he undertook with me, and we sat down over a two- or three-day period and worked rather religiously getting this worked out."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.