General manager Mike Rizzo left no doubt that Rafael Soriano will be the Nationals’ new closer after signing a two-year, $28 million deal, saying: “Suffice it to say, Raffy is here to pitch the ninth inning.”
That means last year’s primary closer, Tyler Clippard, moves back into a setup role after saving 32 games, and Drew Storen remains in a setup role after saving 43 games in 2011.
Storen was used as a closer in Game 5 of the NLDS and blew a two-run lead against the Cardinals, but Rizzo was quickly to say that “by no means the signing of Rafael Soriano was based on one inning and one game at the end of the season.”
Whatever the case a late-inning trio of Soriano, Storen, and Clippard is one of the best in baseball–all with closing experience–and last season combined to throw 171 innings with a 2.89 ERA.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.