Boston Red Sox: 5 Reasons Not To Give Up on KC Royals Reliever Joakim Soria
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This week, the Boston Red Sox reached out to the Kansas City Royals about a possible trade for the Royals' closer, Joakim Soria, according to SB Nation. Kansas City was apparently seeking more than Boston was offering in return, so the talks have apparently stalled—at least publicly.
I hope the Red Sox have not given up.
Soria is an under-the-radar, high-quality relief pitcher who has had success closing, and he could be an excellent addition to the Boston bullpen. With Soria in the fold, the Red Sox would have some real flexibility—especially if the newly-acquired arm from Houston, Mark Melancon, does not adapt well to the bright lights and pressure of the AL East.
Here are five reasons Boston should be patient and persistent in their pursuit of Soria.
No. 1: Soria Is Young and Healthy
At 27, Soria has a number of good years still ahead.
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John Lackey. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matt Albers. Rich Hill. Junichi Tazawa. Bobby Jenks. Erik Bedard.
What did all these Red Sox pitchers have in common? Arm problems, or other injuries requiring surgery. Even newly acquired southpaw Jesse Carlson is rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery.
Wouldn't it be great to acquire a pitcher in his prime, with no health issues?
Soria is only 27, and he has not been overworked. He was born in Mexico and was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001.
No. 2: He Has a Good Track Record as a Closer
Soria has converted 160 of 180 save opportunities.
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The Royals acquired him in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, and he made the big league club in 2007. From 2007 through 2010, he put up an aggregate ERA of 2.01 with a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The 6' 3", 200 lb. native of Mexico features four pitches, including a wicked curve ball, and he mixes things up instead of relying on a fastball to get batters out.
In 2010 he made the All-Star team, and garnered some Cy Young and even MVP votes after a 43-save, 1.78 ERA season. He had a career-high 43 saves in 66 appearances, striking out 71 in 65 and two-thirds innings pitched.
However, he reportedly began tinkering with new pitches in 2011, and started the year off horrendously posting an ERA of 8.71 in May. He also had an uncharacteristic seven blown saves.
As Matt Conner of SB Nation Kansas City points out, however, he turned things around in the second half, and was not scored upon for the entire month of September. He ended up with 28 saves and a 4.03 ERA.
Even with the 2011 hiccup, he has a career ERA of 2.40 with 160 saves. Conner writes, "…entering his prime, Soria is still millions below market value for the best closers on the market. Simply put, Soria is the best closer for the money on the market."
Of interest to Boston fans, Soria has a lights-out ERA of 1.00 in eight games at Fenway in his career.
No. 3: Soria Has a Very Favorable Contract
Any team that gets Soria gets a good pitcher and a good deal.
Soria will earn $6.5 million in 2012, but that's the last of his guaranteed money. He is under team control through the end of the 2014 season (team option for $8 million for 2013 and a team option for $8.75 million in 2014). Although those numbers aren't chump change, in today's closer market they are quite reasonable.
This is the type of contract Red Sox GM Ben Cherington can live with. It's low-risk, high reward (if you can get past the fact that $6 million is low risk, of course.) The point is, you can cut your losses after one year if it doesn't work out.
The Royals already exercised the $6.5 million club option for 2012.
So, you can see where this is going.
With the exception of Colorado, all those teams are big-market, big-budget operations. Such clauses usually give the player leverage to renegotiate the contract as an incentive to agree to a trade.
This is not necessarily all bad for the Red Sox—who have real salary cap issues—in order to avoid severe luxury tax penalties in the future. Perhaps a deal can be structured that works for both sides.
No. 4: Kansas City Just Signed Jonathan Broxton
Former Dodger closer Broxton, coming off arm surgery, just signed a one-year deal with the Royals.
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As Kansas City writer Matt Conner points out, the Royals are a small market team. To them, $8 million next season and $8.75 million in 2014 is more than they really want to pay for a one-inning reliever, no matter how good he may be.
That's probably one of the reasons they surprised everyone in baseball by signing former Dodgers closer Broxton to a one-year, $4 million deal. Now, with or without Soria, the Royals will have a decent bullpen.
Although ownership would not admit this to the fans, a dynamite closer is of far less value to a 90-loss team than he is to a 90-win team. Besides, there is a tendency to devalue saves made for a 90-loss team: Conventional wisdom says that those saves don't carry the same pressure as those earned for a perennial pennant contender.
Conner concludes, "Now is the ideal time to trade Soria and receive the best return possible before his value begins to go down—which is really the only way it will go until his contract runs out."
No. 5: Other AL East Teams Are in the Hunt for Soria
The Blue Jays are looking to fill Rogers Centre this year.
As recently as December 19th, SBNation Kansas City reported that Soria "was on the verge of being traded to Toronto."
The deal allegedly involved Blue Jays minor league catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud.
Two weeks ago, another deal with Toronto was allegedly in the works—this time for recently acquired Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus.
Even if there's no fire to these deals, there is smoke, and as spring training draws nigh, teams seeking bullpen help will start to pull triggers on deals. Soria seems to be the real deal, and even if the first reaction from Kansas City was that they weren't interested in what the Red Sox were offering, I'd say "keep talking".