Nationals sign Rafael Soriano to two-year, $28 million deal

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Well, this certainly came out of nowhere.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that free agent reliever Rafael Soriano has agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract with the Nationals, who lose their first-round draft pick in order to sign him.

Soriano was one of three remaining free agents with draft pick compensation attached. All three of them (Soriano, Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn) are represented by agent Scott Boras and there’s been all sorts of speculation that they’d struggle to secure multi-year deals, but Soriano at least has found a nice landing spot with a Nationals team that is flush with high-profile Boras clients.

Washington’s bullpen wasn’t exactly hurting, so it’ll be interesting to see how Soriano fits in with a group that already included Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard as the late-inning duo. According to Passan the two-year, $28 million deal also includes a $14 million option for 2015 that vests if Soriano has 120 games finished in 2013-2014, which would essentially require his being the Nationals’ full-time closer.

Soriano stepped in as the Yankees’ closer when Mariano Rivera injured his knee last season and saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA. He’s battled injuries over the years, but when healthy Soriano has consistently been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 2.78 career ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower in six of the past seven seasons, but $14 million per year and a draft pick is an awfully big price tag for a reliever.

Roger Clemens will be an analyst for ESPN on opening day

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Roger Clemens will be an analyst for ESPN when the defending World Series champion Houston Astros host the Chicago White Sox on opening day.

Clemens made four appearances on last year’s KayRod Cast with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. He will be stepping in on March 30 for David Cone, who will be doing the New York Yankees opener against the San Francisco Giants on YES Network.

“Roger has been sort of a friend of ours for the last year, so to speak, he’s in. He’s been engaged, knowledgeable and really present,” said ESPN Vice President of Production Phil Orlins. “You know, whatever past may be, he’s still tremendously engaged and he really brought that every time he was with us.”

Clemens was a seven-time Cy Young winner but his career after baseball has been tainted by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. He is a Houston native and pitched for the Astros for three seasons.

Orlins said that with the rules changes and pitch clock, it is important to have a pitcher in the booth with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez.

“We don’t feel like we have to have the dynamic of Eduardo with a pitcher, but we certainly think that works. Throw in the added factor of rule changes and it is better to have a batter-pitcher perspective,” Orlins said.

Orlins did not say if this would open the door for future opportunities for Clemens as an ESPN analyst.