You can call it an overreaction to one blown save ... but it was one big blown save.
Sources told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the Washington Nationals signed free-agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million contract, with a third-year vesting option. Soriano presumably replaces Drew Storen -- he of the ninth-inning meltdown against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the Division Series -- and takes over the closer role.
I like the move. You can argue that closers aren't worth $14 million, you can argue that Storen is a quality closer who just had one bad inning at the wrong moment and you can argue that Soriano isn't an upgrade, but from the Nationals' perspective, I see their thinking like this:
1. The goal isn't to build the best team on dollars spent per win but to build the best team possible. Soriano is a good pitcher (Saw this tweet: since 1920, he has the third-lowest WHIP among pitchers with at least 500 innings) and he helps the Nationals.
2. While Storen has a career 2.96 ERA and saved 43 games in 48 chances in 2011 (he was injured part of last season and saved just four games), when you have a championship-caliber team you would prefer to go into the season with certainty at closer. You don't want to spend all season wondering how Storen can handle a playoff game, when there is no margin for error. Plus, he's a guy with an injury history.
3. The Nationals needed depth in the pen anyway with the loss of Sean Burnett. Plus, Tyler Clippard, who closed until Storen returned last season, has carried a heavy workload the past three seasons, pitching 252 innings, the most of any major league reliever. He looked worn by the end of the season, when he allowed 21 hits in 13.1 innings in the final month. So this gives Davey Johnson a dynamite back end of the pen and allows him to spread the work around.
With Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, Christian Garcia and Henry Rodriguez, the Nats have one of the best pens in the league (although Zach Duke is the lone lefty), meaning the club can also monitor the innings of starters Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler. It's a long season, and keeping your pitching staff strong and healthy into October is just as important as getting to October.
(The signing also means the Nats don't have to trade Mike Morse for a reliever, as has been speculated. They can keep and use him as depth/injury insurance for the outfield and first base.)
The Nationals will lose their first-round draft pick and the money allocated for that pick, but for a team that can win it all, it's a worthy gamble. Late first-round picks rarely pan out anyway. The Yankees will also gain an additional pick at the end of the first round.
And Scott Boras' own gamble paid off. Soriano turned down his option with the Yankees and ended up getting a contract bigger than many expected ... and a chance to be somebody's closer.