When the Washington Nationals signed him to a two-year, $28 million deal, there were just as many people who did not understand why Rafael Soriano was heading to D.C. as there were those who did.
Washington was coming off their best season in their young history, as well as probably the best season of any Washington baseball team. All that had stood between the Nationals and the NLCS was pretty much one inning where their youth and inexperience came back to bite them, with Drew Storen taking the brunt of the blame. Going into the offseason, fans had their eyes on Zack Greinke and other starters, but Soriano and Denard Span were the crown jewels of Washington’s offseason.
Soriano came with a reputation of being less than a good teammate, being quiet and distant in the clubhouse, not exactly being a must listen for an interview. Soriano could be described best by the music he walks out to at Nationals Park, a song written about him titled “El Rey de Monticulo” (The King of the Mound), written by a family friend from the Dominican Republic. Not exactly the most humble of music choices. So, needless to say, Soriano coming to D.C. was seen simultaneously as a solid move, but one with consequences.
Those consequences reared their ugly collective head quickly, as Bryce Harper‘s tentative play of a fly ball in San Francisco spurred Soriano to claim his three-year-old son could have made the play Harper made. Soriano and Harper have since smoothed things over, but that’s not exactly what fans, or management, want to hear or read. Soriano has also shown a perceived lack of interest in games he pitches in when there is not a save or Washington has a large lead, which has caused him to get pulled and then called out by his bench coach, Randy Knorr.
All these blemishes aside, Soriano has been strong out of the Nationals’ bullpen, converting 40-of-46 save chances with a 3.36 ERA. Not exactly lock down numbers from a guy getting a lot of money from Washington for one inning of work, but Soriano’s role allows Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen to be used as the best seventh-eighth-inning combo in the majors, along with allowing the team to absorb an injury like the one Ryan Mattheus suffered earlier in the season.
Soriano certainly came to Washington with his warts, but the fact is that he has been solid, and exactly what Washington expected when they signed him.