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The Rays Tank: Rafael Soriano signs with Washington

Considering the implications of the Nationals signing another right handed reliever.

Alex Trautwig

Andrew Friedman met with the press yesterday, and the biggest take away has been that the Rays are on the look out for a Designated Hitter. Considering they have none, that seems reasonable.

Marc Topkin reports the Rays are more likely to find their DH on the open market than through trade. If the Rays were to pursue a trade, the two most obvious suitors might be Seattle (Chris Gimenez for Justin Smoak?) and the Nationals (Cesar Ramos for Michael Morse?), as has been discussed extensively in the Rays Tank comments previously.

What does make for news is the wizard Scott Boras finding a place for Rafael Soriano, our former closer who turned down the Yankees' qualifying offer and was plagued on the free agent market by draft pick compensation. Enter the Nationals, who are desperate for left handed relieving. If they couldn't find a lefty, they would settle for this off-season's best free agent reliever instead. Soriano will make $28M over the next two seasons, with a third year at the same price if he finishes about 60 games each year (120 in total).

Whether Soriano or the rest of the Nationals pen does as well neutrally as the Rays pen has, I have not investigated. But certainly, if anything, the Soriano signing takes some weight off the rest of Washington's often used late inning relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. The two were a revolving door last season, and pitched their fair share. Soriano adds consistency in their pen, and presumably takes over the closing duties, letting Clippard and Storen transition back to high-leverage, mid-game roles.

On the other hand, signing another quality right-handed reliever makes the Nationals even more desperate for a quality left-handed reliever, as space is running thin. Ryan Mattheus and Christian Garcia are both locks for the pen and RHPs. That makes five. Meanwhile, their 40-man roster has only four lefties: starters Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler, A-ball pitcher Matt Purke, and Zack Duke.

Zack Duke is a starting pitcher with major league experience who spent most of the season at AAA last year for the Nationals, and made his first relief appearances in 2012. There's also minor league signing Billy Bray, but the list ends there. Washington has a need.

The LaRoche signing also gave the Nationals a surplus, with Tyler Moore and Mike Morse both slotted in the outfield, when there is only room for one. Morse seems to be the odd man out and the easiest to move.

The problem is the Nationals' asking price, which will probably be for a quality arm like Jake McGee. However, as a 30-year old, previously injured, with only one year remaining on his contract, Mike Morse is not equal in value to McGee - and unless the Nationals would be willing to work something out for Tyler Moore (1B/OF, begins arbitration in 2015), the Nationals are better off pestering the Yankees or settling for a mid-quality southpaw from Tampa Bay.

I would love to see the Rays make a run at Tyler Moore as a stop gap in the OF until Myers arrives, and as a potential 1B of the future. In the meantime, the Nationals have LaRoche locked in for two-to-three years and top-prospect Anthony Rendon knocking on the door of Ryan Zimmerman (who could eventually shift to first). There's a log jam down the road, and the Rays could step in now. Could...

In other Rays news: Despite yesterday's confusion as to whether our current closer Fernando Rodney had actually asked the Rays permission to participate in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, Topkin reports the Rays are "ok with it."


- With development week has come interviews with Rays prospects, including Wil Myers! has Myers discussing life with the Rays, and Topkin provides a video in which you can see Myers bunt and talk about loving center field. Also, Adam Berry had a full write up on Myers for yesterday.

- For some marvelling at how Scott Boras got the Soriano deal done, Jonah Keri and Jeff Sullivan.

- The Hardball Times wonders if spending big bucks for relief pitching is a great idea, and what the heck the Diamondbacks are up to.

- R.J. Anderson tips his hat to Kyle Farnsworth.