Report: Nationals bolster bullpen by adding Rafael Soriano

Posted: January 16, 2013

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

According to Yahoo Sports, 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. He went 2-1 with a 2.26 ERA while converting 42 of 46 save opportunities.

Soriano's addition to the Nationals makes a strength even stronger. A year ago, their bullpen's 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.

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 experience as closers. Tyler Clippard served as the team's primary closer last season and had 32 saves in 37 opportunities. The year before, Drew Storen had 43 saves in 48 opportunities and posted a 2.75 ERA.

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

 "Sexy" Sox? Theo Epstein traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford after pressure from the Red Sox owners to build a "sexy team," according to a book coauthored by former Boston manager Terry Francona.

Epstein, who left as general manager after the 2011 season to become a Chicago Cubs executive, said Boston owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president Larry Lucchino made the team's image a priority, according to excerpts released Tuesday by Sports Illustrated.

Contact Bob Brookover at Follow on Twitter @abrookob.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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