How’s that for some alliteration? It was announced (unofficially) about an hour ago that the Nats have signed Rafael Soriano to a 2-year, $28 million (wow!) deal, with a third year option. Personally I was surprised that we would add another right-handed closer to the bullpen, as we already have a logjam at closer with Storen and Clippard. Assuming no egos get permanently bruised, I do like the prospect of being able to throw those guys in the 7th-8th-9th, with a yet to be determined lefty specialist in the mix somewhere. Who knows, one of those three could now be a trade chip for a big-time lefty. That would make things really interesting.
I am surprised that the Nats would be willing to give up their 1st round draft pick next year to the Yankees as a result of making this signing. I’m going to heed some of the wisdom that I’ve read in the short amount of time since this story broke. Some are saying that the 2013 draft class is not particularly strong, so giving up a pick this year is not as devastating. I’ve also heard the point that we don’t have a ton of room down on the farm, so to speak, with a pretty crowded system and no room to protect guys on the 40-man roster. Those points may be valid, and I’m going on faith with Rizzo here that he thought all of that through before signing Soriano. I do like the fact that we are officially now a destination where guys prefer to sign. Now let’s just hope signings like this don’t cause our season ticket prices to skyrocket!
James Wagner had an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post, discussing the team’s lack of left-handed relievers in the bullpen. Mike Rizzo has stated that he’s comfortable going into the season with only one lefty, although another one would be nice. Personally, I’m glad they didn’t pay inflated prices for Sean Burnett or J.P. Howell. But then again, decent situational lefties will almost always get overpaid. Those who know baseball well will acknowledge this. But I feel like we got the best of what Burnett had over the past few years. Call it a gut feeling. We’ll see how he does this season for the Angels.
I don’t believe we will enter the season with only one lefty in the bullpen, nor should we. Zach Duke had decent success after we called him up last year, but he spent most of the season in the minors. He does have a lot of major-league experience, but he is also somewhat of a retread. Rizzo points out that right-handed relievers Ryan Mattheus and Tyler Clippard held lefty batters to .219 and .186 averages, respectively. But here’s the catch–you can’t use up those guys for situational at-bats. Clip cannot come in to snuff out a rally with 2 outs in the 6th. Mattheus could, but do you want him reduced to that role? What if you need him in the 7th, and a batting order issue makes this impossible? You can’t always make a double switch when you insert him to prevent this. So I do feel we need another lefty specialist in the bullpen, and a pretty good one at that. I believe we’ll see it, possibly though a trade, or at a minimum from someone rising up to the challenge during spring training.
Speaking of which, Bill Bray is a possible candidate to do just that. I must close by pointing out one interesting anecdote about Bill Bray’s first win in the majors, as I remember watching it on TV. Bray threw exactly one pitch in the eighth against the Brewers, a strike, after which a runner on first was caught stealing to end the inning. Catcher Brian Schneider then hit a 2-run homer in the 9th to win it, and Bray got the win. I hope he bought Schneider a steak dinner after that.