Joakim Soria was the first key offseason move made by the Kansas City Royals. On Monday, the Royals exercised a $6 million option on Soria. Soria may be the most essential piece that the Royals retain from their 2011 roster.
The Royals have three free agents this year, Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen and Jason Kendall. Francis is likely out the door after posting a 6-16 record. Chen could help the Royals next season after garnering his first sub-4.00 ERA as a starter since 2005. Kendall might consider retirement after missing the season following rotator cuff surgery in September 2010.
By far, Soria trumps these players in value. Soria has been a central piece for the Royals for the last five years. For most of those five seasons, Soria has been the Royals closer. In that, Soria has been one of the steadier pieces on the team.
Soria has piled up great numbers for the Royals. Generally reliable closing games, Soria has saved 160 games in 180 chances. Soria has had ERA figures below 2.50 in each of his first four seasons, including two with ERA figures below 2.00. A two-time All-Star, Soria has saved 40 games in two seasons.
Twice Soria has placed second in the American League in saves.
Soria is a lightning quick pitcher. He has career 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings rate. In 2009, Soria struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings. Soria blazes by batters with his fastball. Hitters have little chance against Soria.
In 2011, Soria had a down year. He posted a 4.03 ERA and saved only 28 games. Soria blew seven save opportunities. Through May, Soria had a 6.55 ERA with five blown saves, causing Ned Yost to remove him briefly from the closer role. Soria repented by pitching June without allowing a run.
Soria should be back in excellent form in 2012. Such a poor year will be just a blip for the hard thrower. Soria is the type of relentless pitcher who can recover easily.
2012 will be a year in which Soria needs to come back brilliantly. For 2013, Soria would earn $8 million in a club option. Only hard work and staunch reliability will bring Soria the large figure. Whether Soria can stand the test will be exciting to see.