Joakim Soria is a free agent after missing all of 2012 due to injury. (Photo by AP)
Despite receiving much of the blame for the Nationals’ devastating loss in Game 5 of the NLDS, the team appears confident in closer Drew Storen. The 25-year-old saved 43 games in 2011 and was excellent for most of 2012 up until the playoff disaster. He was a first round pick for the Nationals and replacing him after one terrible outing would be quite the knee-jerk move.
But even with Storen back, and Tyler Clippard in the fold, the Nationals could conceivably look for an insurance policy. Last season they signed Brad Lidge in late January to seemingly fit that role, but that experiment didn’t work out. One could see Washington going after a similar veteran this offseason with hopes for a better result.
Here are some of the best relievers on the market this year and how they may fit in with the Nats:
RHP Rafael Soriano (32 years old) - $11M in 2011
2-1 – 2.26 ERA – 1.167 WHIP – 42 SV – 67.2 IP
Soriano is by far the biggest prize of the 2012 closer free agent market and therefore an unlikely fit for the Nationals. It can’t be ruled out, but the Nationals signing a big free agent closer doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense. Soriano is looking for a long-term deal and the Nats already have Drew Storen. But if the market isn’t what Soriano hopes it is, maybe the Nats could step in. Don’t bet on it though.
RHP Jonathan Broxton (28 years old) - $4M in 2011
4-5 – 2.48 ERA – 1.259 WHIP – 27 SV – 58.0 IP
Traded to the Reds from the Dodgers in 2012, Broxton bounced back from injury to save 27 games. He has 106 saves since 2008 and boasts a career ERA of 3.10. With a fastball hitting triple digits, he fits the profile of flame throwing pitchers Mike Rizzo likes. Broxton will, however, be one of the more expensive relief options in this year’s class.
RHP Ryan Madson (32 years old) - $6M in 2011
DNP – Tommy John surgery
Madson signed a one-year deal with the Reds last season in hopes to be their closer, but a ligament tear ended his season in March. He isn’t exactly young, but if Madson regains the form he had as a member of the Phillies (2.89 ERA from 2007-2011) he could be the perfect fit. His 2.31 ERA in 33 playoff appearances doesn’t look too bad either.
RHP Joakim Soria (28 years old) - $6M in 2011
DNP – Tommy John surgery
At 28, Soria already has seasons on his resume of 43, 42, 30, and 28 saves. He missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, but that hasn’t scared the Nationals in the past. Few teams have had success with post-Tommy John pitchers like Washington. Soria could also be looking for a short-term deal to re-establish himself as one of the game’s better young closers.
LHP Jeremy Affeldt (33 years old) - $5M in 2011
1-2 – 2.70 ERA – 1.263 WHIP – 3 SV – 63.1 IP
If brought in by the Nationals, Affeldt would likely be the replacement for Sean Burnett if he signs elsewhere. The 33-year-old lefty would then be less a backup to Storen and more a seventh inning guy. But with his experience and consistency, Affeldt could be pitch in ninth inning situations. He also brings a stellar playoff record with a 1.37 ERA through 19.2 innings pitched. He has two rings with the Giants and also pitched in the World Series with the Rockies in 2007.
RHP Mike Adams (34 years old) - $4.4M in 2011
5-3 – 3.27 ERA – 1.395 WHIP – 1 SV – 52.1 IP
Adams had an off year in 2011 after being one of the league’s best setup men for almost five seasons. He is a veteran who could be had at a cheaper price because of the down year and brings a decent track record in the playoffs. In 11 postseason appearances he has a 3.24 ERA and two wins.