The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with Rafael Soriano on a two-year, $28 million deal that includes a vesting option for the 2015 season Tuesday afternoon. If the former Yankees closer finishes 120 games in the next two seasons, he will earn $14 million in 2015 as well.
A source familiar with the deal confirmed the agreement to The Washington Times.
The Nationals will surrender their 2013 first-round draft pick (No. 29 overall) to the New York Yankees, as well as the pool money that comes with it, because Soriano turned down the Yankees $13.3 million qualifying offer this past November.
The Nationals are traditionally highly protective of their draft picks so to see them give one up for a reliever is somewhat surprising but it would’ve been the latest in the first round the team has ever selected. The Washington Post reported that owner Ted Lerner was directly involved in the negotiations with Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras.
The move also likely means there is more shifting ahead in the Nationals’ bullpen. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard already gave the Nationals two capable right-handed closers, but the addition of Soriano will crowd the back end even more. The Nationals now have three right-handed pitchers who’ve combined for 123 regular-season saves since the start of the 2011 season as the vesting option contained in Soriano’s contract indicate he will be a closer. For context, though, in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the only two closers to finish 120 or more games were Jose Valverde (137) and Craig Kimbrel (120).
His addition also allows the Nationals to trade from their right-handed bullpen depth and one source said in December that there had been interest in Clippard. Both Storen and Clippard are set to go through the arbitration process with the Nationals, who have also been fielding interest in first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse.
Perhaps the team could package their pieces together in order to replenish their farm system, particularly now that they’ll be without a first-round pick in this June’s draft.
Soriano, who spent three years in the Nationals’ division with the Atlanta Braves, had a 2.26 ERA and saved 42 games for the Yankees in 2012, replacing the injured Mariano Rivera. He becomes the highest-paid reliever in major league baseball with the $14 million salary for 2013 and is now the second-highest-paid player on the Nationals, behind only Jayson Werth and tied with Ryan Zimmerman.
Multiple Spanish-language reports emerged early Tuesday afternoon that Soriano and the Nationals had agreed to the deal. Hector Gomez, a Dominican Republic radio host, quoted the 33-year-old right-hander as saying he was “very happy to be a part of this family. Now we just need to go to spring training and start to work.”
Yahoo! sports was the first English-speaking outlet to report the agreement.