Rafael Soriano is scheduled to become a free agent after this season, the second of his two-year deal signed in the 2013 offseason. There’s a clause in his contract worth watching, however, because it may have an effect on how manager Matt Williams uses his closer this season.
Soriano’s $14 million 2015 salary becomes guaranteed in 2015 if he has a total of 120 games finished between 2013 and 2014. Soriano had 58 games finished last season, including 43 saves. If Soriano finishes 62 games this season, the Nats owe him a lot of money next year.
How conceivable is it that Soriano reaches this number? It’s only four more than last season, and there’s a decent chance the Nats provide their closer with more save situations in 2014 since most experts expect the team to improve on their 2013 86 win total.
Matt Williams decided not to use his closer in both games so far against the Mets, despite having a 4-run lead each time. While a 4-run lead is not a save situation, it’s nonetheless not usual to see a manager use his closer anyway, particularly in a situation like this since he’s completely rested and there’s an off-day built into the first week of the season. For example, the Phillies used their closer on Monday with a 4-run 9th inning lead.
With a tightening team payroll, Mike Rizzo probably doesn’t want to be forced to pay Rafael Soriano $14 million next season. Even if the team could afford it, Rizzo would probably want the flexibility of offering Soriano a one-year contract tender, which would be around $14 million anyway and guarantee the Nats a draft pick should Soriano opt to sign elsewhere. Bottom line, the Nats don’t want Soriano finishing 62 games this season.
Last season, Davey Johnson had no problem ordering Soriano to close out a games in a non-save situation (like this game, for example). In fact, he had him do it 15 times overall. Thus far in two games, Matt Williams opted to have someone else pitch the last inning of a 4-run game. We still don’t know what type of manager Matt Williams is going to be. Is he keeping Soriano on the bench because it’s his style, or did someone upstairs order him to do it?