The Kansas City Royals had two prized pitchers heading into the offseason. The first was 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke. He was known to be available after having voiced his disgust with the Royals, and a few months later, they shipped him to the Milwaukee Brewers for four of the Brewers' top prospects.
According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the press release had barely gone public when teams started calling about the Royals' second most valued commodity—closer, Joakim Soria.
Soria, 26, has been nicknamed "The Mexicutioner," and it should be fairly obvious why: When he enters the ball game in the ninth inning, the opponent's hopes of winning are all but dead.
Since becoming a full time reliever in 2007, Soria has been electric, appearing in a total of 238 games, posting a record of 8-10, with an ERA of just 2.01. Through age 26, he has converted 238 saves for the bottom dwelling, Kansas City Royals, and has blow just 13 saves over the course of his career. By the time his career is finished, he could be one of the greatest closers baseball has ever seen.
So why would the Royals want to trade him?
Though they're not stuck in the same predicament they were with Greinke, the Royals interest in trading Soria would be more of a want than a necessity. Soria is signed to a team friendly deal through the 2011 season, with club options that become guaranteed with various in-game feats for each season through 2014.
Soria's contract is one of his best selling points, and has drawn the interest of large market teams like the New York Yankees, who were rumored to have offered their top prospect, catcher/DH Jesus Montero, straight up for the Royals' closer. The Yankees were denied because of the depth of the Royals' farm system in that position, but the point is clear: teams are willing to give up their best to acquire Soria. Why is that?
In short, he has been absolutely dominant as a closer. Last season alone, he posted a record of 1-2 with an ERA of 1.78 for the Royals, converting 43 saves. Take into consideration that the Royals won just 67 games in 2010.
That means that Soria saved more than 64 percent of all Royals wins in 2010. Imagine what he can do with an annual contender like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or as this article is concerned, the Philadelphia Phillies.
With Brad Lidge already in tow, why would the Phillies consider Soria?
When he is completely healthy, Lidge is one of the best closers in baseball. He showed flashes of that brilliance at the end of the 2010 season, where he posted an ERA of 0.76 over the final three months of the season, and reduced his blown saves from 11 in 2009 to just five in 2010. It is his inconsistency that has worried the Phillies organization, however.
Before he returned to form in those final three months, Lidge posted an ERA of 6.52 in the months of June and July. Aside from his on the field performance, Lidge is almost sure to become a free agent after the 2011 season, since the Phillies hold a hefty option for 2012 that is sure to be declined.
The Phillies also boast a set-up man that has "closer stuff," in right-hander Ryan Madson. Madson was much better—and more consistent, for that matter—than Lidge in 2010. He posted a 6-2 with an ERA of 2.55, and despite missing a significant amount of time with a broken toe, recorded 15 holds to effectively set up Lidge.
Like Lidge, however, Madson will become a free agent after the 2011 season, and though he is more likely to return to the Phillies than his closer counterpart, he is a Scott Boras client, and will surely make the Phillies sweat it out and ask for a big pay day.
With the uncertainty of the Phillies bullpen after the 2011 season, why not make a play for the golden standard?
According to Baseball America and numerous other prospect gurus, the Royals have the most talented, deepest farm system in baseball. With names like Mike Montgomery, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Meyers in their system, the Royals made it clear that they will not just settle for a team's top prospect. In any deal for any of their star players, they are going to fill areas of need with young, talented players.
General Manager Dayton Moore made it clear that he was going to seek a middle infielder, a center fielder and pitching help for Zack Greinke's services, and what did he do? He went out and acquired shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi from the Milwaukee Brewers. So what's left to upgrade?
From an outsider's perspective, the Royals appear to need the most help in the outfield, in the starting rotation, in the bullpen, and behind the plate. If the Phillies were going to express interest in Soria, they could help fill each of those areas. Any deal for Soria would surely start with baseball's top prospect, outfielder Domonic Brown.
Though he had a less than impressive debut, Brown mashed minor league pitching, posting a slash line of .332/.391/.582, with 20 home runs. He is the standard five tool player, and will transition into one of baseball's premier outfielders.
The Phillies could also offer a bevy of relief prospects, highlighted by right hander, Justin DeFratus. He posted ERAs below 2.20 at three different levels in the Phillies' system in 2010, and was added to the 40-man roster earlier in the winter.
Combined with any number of starting pitching prospects like Trevor May, Jarred Cosart, or Brody Colvin and talented defensive catcher Sebastian Valle, and the Phillies could put together an impressive package.
That seems to be where most teams put Dayton Moore on hold. How do you value a pitcher that is going to throw a maximum of 70 innings pitched? According to some sources, the Phillies wouldn't be ridiculous to offer Domonic Brown straight up for Soria, but like the Yankees, they would probably be turned down.
As mentioned earlier, Soria has an extremely team friendly contract that should up his value. If the Phillies were to offer Domonic Brown, Justin DeFratus and another player, I think it would be hard to turn that package down.
Soria himself could also be an obstacle to a deal. He has a partial no trade clause that blocks, among other teams, the Phillies. Though recent reports suggest that Soria wouldn't block a trade to any team, he could use his no-trade clause as leverage to negotiate an extension with a new team. That, is a different discussion all together.
At the end of the day, Soria seems like a perfect fit for the Phillies bullpen. Assuming that they could move Joe Blanton, he'd make just half of what the starter is due in 2011.
Assuming that he'd be the go-to guy in the ninth inning, the Phillies would be able to turn to Jose Contreras, JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge in some combination from the sixth inning onward, and with their four horseman manning the rotation, how often would they be necessary?
It would easily be the greatest pitching staff of all time, and certainly complies with General Manager Ruben Amaro's philosophy that pitching wins championships.
I suppose it comes down to the discussion, who is more valuable going forward—Joakim Soria or Domonic Brown?