Soriano survives, nets big money deal

The Washington Nationals emerged as the surprise landing point for Rafael Soriano on Tuesday night, inking the pitcher to a two-year, $28 million contract.

Let’s take a look at some of the notes, stats, and trends surrounding this acquisition.

The basics

Soriano had 45 saves in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays and 42 saves as Mariano Rivera’s fill-in replacement in 2012.

Soriano is one of three relievers with a pair of 40-save seasons in the last three seasons, the other two being Heath Bell (2010 and 2011) and Craig Kimbrel (2011 and 2012).

Soriano did so last season despite not being at his most effective in his home ballpark.

In fact, in two years in the Bronx, Soriano had a 4.31 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in Yankee Stadium, and a 1.54 ERA and 1.03 WHIP on the road.

What made Soriano so good in 2012?

Soriano dominated in the Yankeec closer role despite peripheral numbers that might indicate otherwise. His strikeout rate, walk rate, and home-run rate produced an FIP (a stat scaled to what a pitcher’s ERA should be based on those numbers) of 3.32.

Soriano was able to escape james at an above-average rate. Opponents hit .155 with a .457 OPS with men on base last season.

The latter number ranked second-best in baseball among those who faced at least 100 batters with men on.

Opponents were 4-for-50 (with nine walks) with two outs and men on base, that .080 batting average rating best in baseball.

The contract

Soriano did well, relatively speaking, to get the deal that he got.

The last five relievers to hit free agency coming off a 40-save season (Soriano twice, Bell, Francisco Rodriguez, and Francisco Cordero) have gotten multi-year deals worth at least $9 million per season.

Most Money Committed
To Free Agents, Past 3 Offseasons

This will be the third-biggest contract for a free-agent reliever in terms of average annual value.

Rivera signed contracts with an average value of $15 million twice-- once in the 2007-08 offseason (three years), once in the 2010-11 offseason (two years).

It is also the second-largest free-agent contract in terms of average annual value signed by a Nationals/Expos player.

The only one larger is Jayson Werth's 7-year, $126 million contract (average value: $18 million) signed in the 2010-11 offseason.

The Nationals have signed three free agents to contracts with an average value of $12 million or more this offseason (also: Dan Haren, Adam LaRoche).

Prior to this season, Werth was the only free agent they signed to a deal worth $12 million or more per year.

The Nationals have committed more than $220 million to free agents in the past three offseasons. Only six teams (Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles Dodgers) have committed more.

The Nationals bullpen

The Nationals added to an area that was already a team strength. Washington’s bullpen ranked eighth in ERA and seventh in opponents batting average last season.

Washington’s bullpen was taxed quite a bit last season. Nationals relievers threw 515 1/3 innings last season, second-most in the National League.

The Nationals will have a seventh-inning/eighth-inning/ninth-inning combo of Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Soriano.

The three combined for a 2.90 ERA and 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings last season.