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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mike Rizzo Puts The Nats In Position To Win The World Series

Bravo, Mike Rizzo.  Landing closer Rafael Soriano only enforces what we've already known, that this has been a magnificent offseason for the Washington Nationals. Soriano is a veteran closer who's gotten the job done in the toughest of markets, New York City. Last year with the Yankees he saved 42 games with a WHIP of 1.16.  He's been especially effective in nine postseason appearances with a WHIP of.583. The addition of Soriano along with Drew Storen gives the Nats two legitimate closer options and opens the door for a package to trade Mike Morse and possibly Tyler Clippard to replenish the minor league pitching quality and depth. The Nationals could also opt to hold onto Clippard to form a devastation trio for the 7-8-9 innings. Not only is the back of the bullpen stronger, but the rotation, the offense and the outfield defense have improved as well over the Hot Stove. Rizzo brought in Denard Span to lead off and play center field. This gives Davey Johnson more options to work with down his batting order and allows Bryce Haper to lessen some of the wear and tear on his body by moving him to a corner outfield spot(presumably RF because he has one of the best arms in the game). With the back end of the bullpen fortified and centerfield situated, it's time to give Rizzo his due on two more shrewd moves. First, he didn't bid against himself to bring back Adam LaRoche. The Nats GM knew the market value for LaRoche, held his ground and waited until the first baseman agreed to their price. Finally, the coup of the offseason may have been landing starting pitcher Dan Haren. Haren will fill the fifth starter spot initially, but may be asked to be more.  Last season, no Nationals SP missed significant time due to injury, only by team choice (Strasburg). Haren has been known to win (.551 win %)as well as eat innings. Last year was the first time since 2004 that he hadn't pitched at least 214 innings in a season. Ultimately, teams are judged on how their season ends but the foundation for those rosters are solidified by deals such as those Mike Rizzo has made this offseason. Veteran closer: Check Center fielder/leadoff hitter: Check Resign gold glove first baseman: Check Upgrade the rotation: Check The time to win for the Washington Nationals to win it all is NOW. Rizzo has put his team in a position to do so with these offseason moves. Bravo, Mike Rizzo. Bravo.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Soriano

That was a surprise huh? The Nationals have added veteran closer Rafael Soriano to the back end of their bullpen. Make no mistake, they are paying him to close. As of right now this minute, Soriano is the closer of the Washington Nationals.

Now, full disclosure, I like Drew Storen. I like him a lot in fact. Since I've started on the radio, he's one of my favorite guys I've gotten the chance to meet. I root for him and I always will. Tremendous guy and someone who I still believe will be an elite closer in this league.

The key here for the Nats is how do you manage all this? If this was a video game, and you asked me: 'Do you have use for a tough as nails bulldog who's in the mid 90s, has a wipeout slider, and has added a change piece (struck out Matt Holiday with that change to clinch the Nationals first ever playoff berth) and has experience closing games?' The answer is obviously yes. The hard part here is making sure THAT is the guy that comes out of the bullpen in the 8th inning, or the 7th or whenever he's needed. Closers, and really most bullpen guys, want to close games. They're wired that way. Like a middle linebacker in the NFL is wired to fly around hit guys, a closer thrives on the adrenaline of those high pressure situations. It's the highest risk/highest reward job the sport offers and is increasingly a glamor position among staffs.

So what does that mean for this team? It means that this move to add a quality back end guy isn't an indictment of Drew Storen. He needs to know he's a critical cog, will pitch in big spots, and will hopefully be an integral part of a World Series contender. Storen can get big outs and the Nats will need him to do just that if they want to have the kind of year we all hope for.

As for Soriano, my shock and feelings for Storen aside, this is a good signing for Washington. All the numbers check out (stat geeks see the ERA+, Ks/9) and the last several years have been in the toughest division for pitchers. He's a fastball/slider guy who's an easy 93. The slider is the out pitch for sure as he throws it a bunch ahead in the count. Soriano doesn't throw his cutter or his 2 seamer as often as he did earlier in his career. In short, he can do the job. He's a veteran who's pitched in big spots for the better part of a decade. For a team that is selling out to win the World Series this year, signing Rafael Soriano makes sense.

The Nationals have entered the final phase of their plan to compete. They're forfeiting a draft pick, paying a lot of money, and potentially risking the development of one of their bright young stars for a chance to win a World Series. Nats fans should be pleased with the organization going all in. I think we can still be Drew Storen fans and still laud the move.

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