In a bit of a surprise, the Washington Nationals today reportedly agreed to sign closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million contract, with a vesting option for 2015 ($14 million), which vests if he finishes 120 games between 2013 and 2014. Soriano’s market was never crystal clear, but a team with Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, among other talented back-end options in the bullpen, now has an embarrassment of riches.
Do the Nationals now make one of those young arms available? Obviously there’s a demand on the market for back-end relievers – there always is – and Storen or Clippard could net a quality return. While Carlos Marmol, should the Cubs look to move him, may have seen an uptick in his market with Soriano going to a team to which Marmol was never going to be connected … that uptick might just be swallowed up the Nationals’ flexibility to move an arm now.
The price for Soriano is interesting, as he is the most recent free agent tied to draft pick compensation to sign. His price tag – $28 million over two years, plus an option for $14 million in 2014 – doesn’t seem overly dragged down by the loss of a draft pick, but it is lower than Jon Heyman and his “expert” predicted back at the outset of the offseason (which has been true for virtually every free agent tied to compensation, save for B.J. Upton). They saw Soriano getting $39 million over three years, so he gets a higher AAV, but a lower overall commitment. (For some extremely suspect math, he got 72% of his original projection. If Michael Bourn got 72% of his original projection, he’d land at about $49 million guaranteed over about three or four years. You can pretty much ignore this parenthetical.)
All in all, not a bad get for Soriano, though. $14 million per year is an extremely healthy rate, even for a top notch closer. Indeed, it makes him the highest paid closer in the game right now.
In order to sign Soriano, the Nationals will lose their first round pick – number 29 – and the Yankees will pick up a compensatory draft pick after the first round. Thus, the impact of this signing, for Draft purposes, is neutral to the Cubs, with respect to their second round pick spot.
UPDATE: Jim Bowden reports that Soriano’s deal includes huuuuuuge deferrals of money. He gets just $7 million in 2013, and $7 million in 2014. The remaining $14 million is paid out starting in 2018(!) That level of deferral drops the average annual value of the deal to approximately $11.8 million per year, rather than $14 million. So, the price on Soriano now looks a lot lower than it did when the first reports of the deal were announced.