Nationals Go Big In the Pen, Ink Former Yankee Rafael Soriano

Nationals Go Big In the Pen, Ink Former Yankee Rafael Soriano

The defending NL East Champion Washington Nationals made a big splash on Tuesday afternoon by reportedly adding former Yankees closer-fill-in Rafael Soriano to a 2-year deal worth approximately $28 million with some vesting options that could turn it into a 3-year pact.

CSN Washington's Mark Zuckerman takes a look at the stacked back of the bullpen the Nationals now have:

The surprise addition of Soriano (a Scott Boras client) gives the
Nationals yet another power right-hander at the back of their bullpen,
but raises immediate questions about how manager Davey Johnson plans to
divvy up roles.

Drew Storen was in line to retain his position as the Nationals'
closer after a strong finish to 2012 before his blown save in Game 5 of
the National League Division Series. Tyler Clippard, who led the club
with 33 saves last season, figured to retain his role as the top set-up

With the Braves having the best 'pen in the NL East last season, the Nationals look to be competing for that claim in 2013. While the Phillies are banking on big things from Mike Adams and still-young Phillippe Aumont.

Does this deal, coupled with Soriano's previous, help justify Jonathan Papelbon's $50 million pact with the Phillies? Corey Seidman seems to think so.

Papelbon, who is a year younger, signed a four-year, $50 million pact
with the Phillies last fall. That came after seven seasons in Boston
where Papelbon pitched to a 2.33 ERA, had a 1.02 WHIP and struck out
10.7 batters per nine innings.

Soriano, 33, is coming off a
stellar 2012 in which he replaced Mariano Rivera by pitching to a 2.26
ERA and saving 42 games with the Yankees. It wasn’t the best year of
Soriano’s career ... that was 2010, when he had a 1.73 ERA and 45 saves
for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Others seem to think the Nationals got a Papelbon-quality pitcher on a shorter deal, thus making this a real solid move for the Nats. "But $14 mil a year is a lot!," you may grumble. True. But if you've got the money to spend...

And while we're on the discussion of comparing the Phillies to the Nationals, David Murphy went through both teams' lineups yesterday position by position, with a pretty clear advantage going to Washington. He also points out that if a lot of "IFs" go the Phillies way in 2013, they can compete for bragging rights once again.

But like with the Soriano move, it's clear the Nationals are not a Washington team we can scoff at any longer.

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Ben Simmons is on track to return to the Sixers in January, Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday. 

Previous reports indicated that Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in the Sixers' final training camp scrimmage on Sept. 30, would be out three months. Friday's news jives with that, but this is the first time the Sixers have given a timetable.

"It's not doom and gloom," Brown said. "Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd (Bayless). Jahlil (Okafor) is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game."

With long-term ramifications in mind, there had been some speculation that Simmons' camp wanted him to sit all season. 

This is rather encouraging news and it means the Sixers may avoid watching another of their top picks miss his entire first year.

Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

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Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

Playoff soccer is returning to Chester for the first time in five years, and while fans prep for the Union’s first postseason games since 2011, there is no shortage of seating options for Union tickets on the primary market.

Perhaps most importantly, fans won’t have to break the bank to be on hand as the Union compete for their first MLS Cup in franchise history. Union field level seats are available for both the team’s final home regular season game against the New York Red Bulls and the Eastern Conference Semifinal on October 30 should they advance past the knockout round.

The team’s official website lists feet-on-the-pitch seating starting from $155 per ticket for this weekend’s game against the Red Bulls. The first-place Red Bulls head to Talen Energy Stadium with a first-round bye secured, but Union head coach Jim Curtin expects them to bring the pressure with them on Sunday. Fans can look on up close – and for relatively cheap - as the Union look to hand the Eastern Conference leaders their final loss of the regular season.

The Union will take on either New York City FC or Toronto FC in the knockout round either next Wednesday or Thursday. Pending a victory on the road, they’ll return to Talen Energy Stadium to host an Eastern Conference Semifinal game on October 30. Field level seating is still widely available for the team’s first home playoff game since 2011 and start from $178 per ticket.

2016 marks the franchise’s second MLS Cup Playoffs berth in its seven-year existence. They clinched a first-round bye in 2011 but fell to the Houston Dynamo by a 3-1 aggregate in the Conference Semifinals. The Union bring a much different vibe into the playoffs this season, however, after a formidable stretch from September on nearly drowned their postseason hopes. The team won its last game on August 27 against Sporting Kansas City, losing four games and drawing in two others since. 

Despite the team’s recent struggles, there is a sense of renewment that will carry them into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Records are cast aside and the slate is wiped clean, beginning a new path on the long and often tumultuous road to a national championship.