Nationals sign closer Rafael Soriano

Nationals sign closer Rafael Soriano
January 15, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Already overloaded with right-handers with experience closing games in the big leagues, the Nationals are adding another big name to their bullpen ... and making a major financial commitment to him.

The Nationals have agreed to terms on a two-year, $28 million contract with veteran Rafael Soriano, a source familiar with the deal confirmed. Terms also include a $14 million option for 2015 that would automatically vest if Soriano finishes 120 combined games over the next two seasons.

The surprise addition of Soriano (a Scott Boras client) gives the Nationals yet another power right-hander at the back of their bullpen, but raises immediate questions about how manager Davey Johnson plans to divvy up roles.

Drew Storen was in line to retain his position as the Nationals' closer after a strong finish to 2012 before his blown save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Tyler Clippard, who led the club with 33 saves last season, figured to retain his role as the top set-up man.

That gives the Nationals three right-handers with a combined 123 big-league saves over the last three seasons, a luxury if ever there was one.

While it's certainly possible there will be no changes to either Storen or Clippard's role, teams don't typically dole out $14 million per year to a seventh-inning reliever. And Soriano has proven himself a big-league closer himself, saving 42 games with a 2.26 ERA for the Yankees last season.

The 33-year-old right-hander previously was an All-Star closer for the Rays in 2010, saving 45 games while posting a 1.73 ERA. He then signed a three-year, $35 million deal with New York, serving as Mariano Rivera's set-up man in 2011 before taking over ninth-inning duties last season after Rivera suffered a major knee injury, then opting out of the final year of the contract and becoming a free agent.

One other domino effect of the signing: Because the Yankees offered Soriano a qualifying offer in November, the Nationals must forfeit their first-round draft pick in 2013 (29th overall) and a hefty chunk of money allotted to their full draft signing pool. New York will receive a compensation pick (32nd overall).