It seemed like a perfect move at the time. He was a veteran presence to help out a young bullpen, a consistent closer and someone with playoff experience. Sure, he was costly – $28 million dollars. But Rafael Soriano looked like a price worth paying.
Nats fans soon learned that a player with his own custom walk-up song, an off-putting personality and a level of consistency below good music on DC radio was a bad undertaking. Soriano, in one word, was a mistake. He clashed with fans and management, and once even publicly called out Bryce Harper on letting a fly ball drop as Harper was attempting to avoid running into a wall. When the Nats were mediocre in 2013, he blamed his struggles on the rest of the team and their inability to go above .500 and consistently win.
“I had like three or four times I don’t pitch for like a week,” Soriano said. “It’s not easy, you know? Pitching every two or three days, for me, I feel more better like that. When you have five days where you don’t pitch, it’s not easy. The team has been struggling.”
Soriano was a problem that kept the Nats from performing well in 2013, on and off the field.
This week, Mike Rizzo traded away clubhouse and fan favorite Tyler Clippard for SS Yunel Escobar, who Rizzo plans to turn into the everyday second baseman. Sure, his numbers are good – and most certainly better than what Danny Espinosa or Asdrubal Cabrera put up. His flashy defense works, and he’s fun to watch.
Even so, Escobar could very well end up becoming the same kind of problem Soriano was. Escobar is the type of character that has thrown the Nats off course in years past – he argues consistently with umpires, isn’t afraid to call people out and even once put an anti-gay slur on his eye black.
While his on-field upside is high, is it reasonable for Mike Rizzo to add the same thing that has hurt the Nats in years past? As a team, these Washington Nationals are affected by clubhouse issues. Look at 2013, when there were constant arguments and even a live exhibition between Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez.
It’s not right for Mike Rizzo to bring in a guy that could damper the bonds created by last season’s success. What’s done is done, but Yunel Escobar is likely to cause more harm than help.