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.
Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.
OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.
It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.