Washington Nationals Face Pressure to Win Now After Signing Rafael Soriano

Stephen SheehanCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2013

Rafael Soriano is a high-priced acquisition for the Nationals.
Rafael Soriano is a high-priced acquisition for the Nationals.Elsa/Getty Images

Two years and $28 million can change a lot of things, and in the case of the Washington Nationals' signing of Rafael Soriano, it means the pressure is on to win big in 2013. 

After posting a franchise and league-best 98-64 record in 2012, that pressure comes with the territory. 

Already armed with budding superstars Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg and a rock-solid bullpen that goes five pitchers deep, the Nationals didn't necessarily need to add a high-priced arm like Soriano. But in bringing in a veteran who notched 42 saves last season while filling in for an injured Mariano Rivera, the Nationals have set themselves up for sky-high expectations. 

Luckily for the Nationals, they have the pieces in place to meet them. 

Soriano rounds out perhaps the league's best bullpen from 2012—one that features five guys who had a WHIP under 1.25, including Drew Storen and his 0.99 mark. 

As if Storen, who saved 43 games in 2011, and 2012 All-Star Tyler Clippard, who notched 32 last season, weren't enough, the Nationals just added an expensive but proven closer in Soriano. The 10-year veteran owns 132 career saves, including 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2010. 

So what does this luxury signing mean for the league's most exciting up-and-coming team? 

Manager Davey Johnson turned 70 earlier this month, and the Nationals skipper has already made headlines this offseason about his expectations for his final season before he retires.

"World Series or bust, that's probably the slogan this year,'' Johnson said at the winter meetings. "But I'm comfortable with that.''

And after seeing their bullpen collapse against the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs, it's easy to see why the Nationals went out and made Soriano the highest-paid reliever in the game. 

However, adding a third proven closer to an already solid bullpen may cause some role confusion for this team, as Storen and Clippard have both been successful as closers for Washington. That issue will be up to Johnson to sort out, but whatever his decision ends up being, one thing is clear: The Nationals are all in. 

With a manager set to say goodbye to the game after this season and an owner in Ted Lerner who's 87 years old, the window is closing for this current leadership group. Both men have seen this team grow up in front of their eyes, but the time is now for the Nationals to chase a title. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers have put together a nice offseason, but no other team in the National League poses a huge threat to the Nationals and their quest for a World Series title.

Strasburg and Harper are two generational talents who should only be better with another year of experience. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche bring pop to a solid lineup. And the trio of Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman might just be the best in baseball. 

With Soriano filling in the last piece of the puzzle, 2013 promises to be an exciting season in Washington, one that could be deemed a failure without a World Series title.