Today, we bring the Washington DC time machine not so far back in time. It was the offseason before the 2013 season. The Nationals were looking for some bullpen help, particularly at the closer spot after Drew Storen had a rough 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
On this date, January 15, 2013, Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals inked relief pitcher Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal. While it did cost the Nats a draft pick that was given in compensation to the Yankees, this was the reliever that fans thought would help shut down the 9th inning after the great season he had in the Bronx.
After a rough first year in the Bronx in 2011, Soriano stole the show in the Bronx when given the opportunity. After Mariano Rivera tore his ACL and David Robertson struggled with his chance to claim the spot, Soriano became the closer in the Bronx. He saved 42 games in 46 chances and was great in the Yankees’ run to the ALCS (4.1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H in the postseason).
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In his first season in the Nation’s Capital, Soriano went 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA, saving 43 of his 49 games. However, as Nats’ fans saw last season as well, the closer struggled in the second half of 2013. In the months of July and August, he recorded ERA’s of over five. He had a 4.39 ERA after the All-Star Break as opposed to a 2.25 ERA before it.
This past season, Soriano went 4-1 with a 3.19 ERA and saved 32 games in 39 chances, but in the second half, it all went wrong. After a dominant first half of the season (22 saves/24 chances with a 0.97 ERA), the right-hander had a 6.48 ERA in the last three months of the season. Five of his seven blown saves came in the second half of the season, causing manager Matt Williams to give the closer job to Storen.
It got so bad for the 12-year reliever that he was being resorted to pitching in the 16th inning of the 2-1, 18-inning loss game against San Francisco in the NLDS. Now, to be fair to Soriano, he did not give up a run in any of his two NLDS appearances.
When you look at the value Soriano gave the Nats in his two seasons, his combined WAR of 1.7 is about a point lower than his 2.6 WAR with the Yankees in 2012 (third among all Yankees’ pitchers).
As we now fast forward to today, Soriano is in the same position he was two years ago, but with no qualifying offer attached to him. Clearly, the results of the Soriano signing mean that the Nationals will likely not spend big money on a free agent reliever for a while. Even with the minor league signings of Heath Bell and Manny Delcarmen, it looks like the Nats have their back end of the bullpen in place with Storen as the closer. Now, with Tyler Clippard going to the A’s, who takes over as the 8th inning guy?