The Washington Nationals made news today having signed the best free agent pitcher on the market: Rafael Soriano.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to report (via Twitter) that the Nationals had reached an agreement with Soriano for two years and $28 million.

According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports Soriano is now the highest paid relief pitcher in all of baseball. His $14 million average annual salary is second only to Mariano Rivera’s $15 million per season from 2010 through 2012.

Now with Soriano in the fold the Nationals have arguably the deepest bullpen in all of baseball. The team already had Tyler Clippard (37 saves in 2012) and Drew Storen in line to close out games in 2013.

The addition of Soriano gives Washington a man whom had 42 saves last season for the New York Yankees and in his last full season as a closer in 2012, 45 saves with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The obvious question, therefore, is: is Rafael Soriano the Nationals final piece to win a World Series in 2013?

The immediate answer is simply this: it can’t hurt their chances.

Soriano has proven himself to be a top-tier closer and will convert most of his save opportunities. He only blew four saves with the Yankees in 2012 and three with the Rays in 2010.

As a setup man he provided 23 holds for the Yankees in 2011.

That type of efficiency is extremely valuable to any team and now the Nats have an embarrassment of riches in the pitching department.

Clearly paying that much money automatically makes Soriano the closer and moves Storen and Clippard down in the depth chart.

Storen, historically has a markedly better ERA when pitching in the seventh inning than the eighth, as he owns a 0.56 ERA in his 22 career games pitching in the seventh inning versus 48 career games pitching in the eighth inning where he owns a 4.04 ERA.

Clippard on the other hand has fairly similiar statistics when pitching in the seventh and eight innings. Lifetime he owns a 2.43 ERA in 92 games pitching in the seventh while owning a 2.94 ERA in 140 games pitching in the eighth.

Logically, the order of the bullpen should be Storen, Clippard and Soriano. 

Storen had 10 holds and one blown save in 2012 while Clippard had 13 holds and five blown saves.

According to Bill James’s projections on FanGrapshs website, Storen was projected to have 33 saves next season while Clippard would add 14.

Interestingly enough, James only projected Soriano to have two saves, likely acting more as a setup man than a closer.

Clearly that has all changed now.

The Nationals had the most wins in all of baseball last season with 98 and had the second best team ERA with a 3.33, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays.

While there is little that a team can do to truly improve upon a 98 win season, the Nationals may have just done that.

Consider this, when the Nats lost their National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals the team gave up 13 runs through five games in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings combined. 

While they were outscored 32-16 in the series, imagine if the bottom third of each game could have been reeled in with a stronger bullpen?

It is obvious that the front office viewed this as a priority and acted upon it as such.


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