Oct 20, 2013, 6:00 AM EST
Age on Opening Day 2014: 34
How acquired: Free agent, signed Jan. 2013
MLB service time: 11 years, 57 days
2013 salary+bonuses: $14 million ($7 million is deferred)
Contract status: Signed for $14 million in 2014 ($7 million deferred), $14 million club option for 2015 (guaranteed if Soriano finishes 120 games in 2013-14)
2013 Stats: 68 G, 66.2 IP, 65 H, 24 R, 23 ER, 7 HR, 17 BB, 51 K, 1.230 WHIP, 43 SV, 6 BS, 3-3, 3.11 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 0.5 WAR
Quotable: “This is all about improving the ballclub. This move wasn’t to slight Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard. It was to bring in another quality back-end reliever to make us that much stronger. But the move, I thought, was a good move at the time. And because of the way the contract was structured, it worked for us and we felt good about it.” — GM Mike Rizzo, to 106.7 FM
2013 analysis: A surprise (and quite expensive) offseason addition, Soriano was signed with the premise of fortifying what already was a deep and talented bullpen. On the surface, he did exactly what the Nationals wanted. Soriano recorded 43 saves and put Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in position to pitch the seventh and eighth innings.
But dig a bit deeper into the numbers, and it becomes clear Soriano wasn’t quite as effective as it appeared upon first glance. He surrendered more hits per nine innings than any other season in his career. He struck out fewer batters per nine innings than any other season in his career. He blew six saves, a career-high. He retired the side in only 20 of his 68 appearances.
Whether Soriano’s addition also had a negative effect on the overall chemistry of the Nationals bullpen remains up for debate. Clippard, though, certainly suggested that was the case after Storen was demoted to Class AAA Syracuse in July, claiming the Soriano signing represented a vote of no confidence in the club’s former closer.
2014 outlook: The Nationals signed Soriano for two years, so he’s back again as closer, hoping to be a bit more consistently effective this time around. To do that, he’s going to have to find a way to miss more bats.
For whatever reason, Soriano recorded far fewer swinging strikes (14 percent) than he had in any previous season since he was a rookie in 2002. He also gave up far more contact (81 percent of all swings) than he had since that rookie campaign. Those aren’t trends you want from a closer.
Is it a matter of location or movement? Soriano did seem to miss up in the zone an awful lot, but he also threw offspeed pitches only 15 percent of the time this year. More variety might be the answer.
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