The Tigers were able to confirm the deal on Twitter:
The Tigers tonight announced the club has acquired RHP Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for RHPs Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson.— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) July 24, 2014
Texas gives up a player who was set to be a free agent at the end of the year for two quality pitching prospects in Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. This is basically as good as it gets for the Rangers nowadays, considering the squad has the worst record in baseball.
ESPN's Jim Bowden explains that this was a good return for Texas:
Clearly a sellers market as Rangers do great in getting both Thompson and Knebel in Soria deal #ESPN— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 24, 2014
Jared Sandler of ESPN Radio Dallas agrees with the level of talent coming in on the deal:
If this deal goes through, the #Rangers would be getting an outstanding return. Thompson (SP) and Knebel (RP) both top-notch prospects.— Jared Sandler (@jsandlerESPN) July 24, 2014
On the other hand, Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press explains that the upside is not great:
Could Knebel and Thompson be good? Sure. Could they be great? ... Dunno about that. And neither help this year. (2/2)— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 24, 2014
Despite this, it has to be a good feeling for Knebel as a local product, as noted by John Keating of Fox Sports Detroit:
Just landed in Anaheim. Corey Knebel's world has to be spinning. Texas kid. Reported trade to TEX for Joakim Soria.— John Keating (@JohnKeatingFSD) July 24, 2014
Thompson has nice potential, but he is still at least a year or two from contributing in the majors. Knebel, however, is a safer prospect who already has the skill to be an impact player going forward.
The 22-year-old pitcher has spent time in the majors this season with the Tigers, but he has struggled to a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings. At least he can be satisfied in his 11 strikeouts with just three walks in this time, along with the fact that he has yet to allow a home run at this level.
His stats would be even better if he took away his first outing, which resulted in three earned runs in one inning. Knebel admitted to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press that he had too much adrenaline at the time:
There was nothing I could really do. I couldn’t really control it at the time.
It wasn’t the outing I would have hoped for. I got behind a lot of hitters. I had to make pitches. And they hit them. … I was pulling off my fastball, and my curveball was a little loopy.
Once he settled into his role for the Tigers, he looked much better. Still, he will continue to work on his game in Triple-A now that he is in the Rangers organization, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas:
Rangers acquire RHP Jake Thompson and he'll be assigned to DoubleA Frisco. RHP Corey Knebel assigned to TripleA Round Rock.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) July 24, 2014
The good news is that he has already been a star at this level, posting a 1.96 ERA in 18.1 innings with the Toledo Mud Hens. In two seasons, Knebel has totaled a 1.26 ERA in the minors across three leagues.
Before the start of the season, Baseball America ranked the right-hander as the No. 7 prospect in the Tigers system, thanks mostly to his elite curveball. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com notes that he can eventually become a closer in the majors in his scouting report:
The tall right-hander has an outstanding two-pitch power combination and that's all he needs. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he mixes in his biting downer curve that can be a true out pitch. Combine that with the kind of "give me the ball" attitude you want to see from a ninth-inning guy and Knebel has everything to continue closing all the way up to the Major League level.
The key for him going forward will be his command. He walked 4.6 batters per nine innings across two levels in the minors this season, which is something late-game pitchers cannot afford. You have to make hitters earn their spot on base with every run being important.
If he can throw strikes and keep confidence in his pitches, Knebel has the chance to be an impact player for the Rangers either this year or next.
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