Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nationals get stronger with addition of Soriano

The Washington Nationals were already the team to beat in the National League East and Tuesday they made it even more unlikely that somebody will beat them.

Nationals get stronger with addition of Soriano

New York Yankees´ pitcher Rafael Soriano throws in the tenth inning of Game 1 of the American League championship series against the Detroit Tigers Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New York Yankees' pitcher Rafael Soriano throws in the tenth inning of Game 1 of the American League championship series against the Detroit Tigers Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Washington Nationals were already the team to beat in the National League East and Tuesday they made it even more unlikely that somebody will beat them.

According to Yahoo.com's Jeff Passan, the Nationals have teamed up with their favorite agent, Scott Boras, and struck a two-year, $28 million deal for arguably the premier reliever on this year's free-agent market.

Rafael Soriano, 33, spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees and posted a 2.94 ERA in 111 games. He served as Mariano Rivera's setup man in 2011, but when the future Hall of Fame closer went down early last season, Soriano stepped in as New York's closer.

His performance was Rivera-esque as he went 2-1 with a 2.26 ERA while converting 42 of 46 save opportunities.

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Soriano's addition to the Nationals makes a strength even stronger. A year ago, the Nationals' bullpen ERA was 3.23, which was the seventh best in baseball and the third best in the National League.

That is a nice complement to a starting rotation that had a 3.40 ERA and a major-league leading 72 victories. Only Tampa Bay's starters had a better earned run average among baseball's 30 teams last season.

The Phillies felt they significantly upgraded their bullpen by adding free agent Mike Adams, who is considered one of the best setup men in baseball. They signed Adams to a two-year deal worth $12 million.

Relying on a cast of young relievers to get the ball to closer Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies' bullpen had a 3.94 ERA last season, which ranked 21st in baseball and 10th in the National League.

The addition of Soriano gives the Nationals the luxury of three quality pitchers with closer experience. Tyler Clippard served as the team's primary closer last season and had 32 saves in 37 opportunties. The year before, Drew Storen had 43 saves in 48 opportunities and posted a 2.75 ERA.

It will be interesting to see who manager Davey Johnson selects to be his primary closer in 2013, but it's obviously a nice problem to have and another reason the Nationals will be difficult to dethrone as N.L. East champs.

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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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