MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Teams That Should Go Hard After Joakim Soria
Now that the Kansas City Royals have dealt away their former Cy Young Award-winning ace, Zack Greinke, they really only have a handful of talented players left, and certainly not enough to compete in the near future.
They have officially entered the rebuilding phase yet again, and for Royals fans that's probably not too comforting, seeing as they have been chasing that elusive second World Series title since 1985. In fact, they haven't had a winning season since 2003, when they went 83-79, and haven't even made the playoffs since winning their lone title in 1985.
The one true remaining star of the Kansas City Royals is their closer, Joakim Soria. It would only seem logical that, in the aftermath of the Greinke trade, Soria will be the next to go. The Royals are going nowhere, and Soria would most definitely net them a slew of talented prospects from some team's farm system. The question is, which one?
Here is a list of 10 teams I believe may make an attempt to acquire the 26-year-old, two-time All-Star closer.
10. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers won the 2010 American League Pennant, and thus far have kept their team mostly intact this offseason. The only major player they have lost so far is...Cliff Lee.
It's hard to come back from that, especially considering they have already signed his replacement in the form of a man who hasn't pitched since Opening Day 2009...Brandon Webb. With the rest of the rotation being so young and inexperienced, consisting of C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland, it would be nice to have another reliable arm in the Texas bullpen to shorten games and take some pressure off of the starters.
Joakim Soria is that reliable arm. It is unclear whether Texas would use him as their closer or as a setup man to the 2010 Rookie of the Year, Neftali Feliz, but either way, acquiring Soria would benefit the Rangers.
9. New York Mets
The New York Mets need some pitching help. In regards to their two current pitching "stars," Johan Santana has shown some wear and tear, undergoing surgery for a torn ligament that could possibly shelve the Mets' ace until mid-March, making a big-league return potentially impossible until June, and K-Rod is unstable and no longer a fan favorite after an embarrassing and unprofessional incident in the Mets' clubhouse last year.
And with the NL East being as competitive as it is, Mets fans need something to get excited about. Joakim Soria could definitely be an exciting acquisition.
Not to mention he would anchor the Mets bullpen similar to how Pedro Feliciano did last year, which would be nice, seeing as Feliciano has signed with the crosstown Yankees. Soria could possibly steal the closer's job from Francisco Rodriguez, or he could be made into a setup man for him. Such a combination would mimic the Rivera-Wetteland duo the Yankees had back in 1996 that helped them secure their first World Series title since 1978. Either as the closer or setup man, he would be a valuable addition to the Mets 'pen.
8. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals entered the 2010-2011 offseason ready to spend some money and/or trade their prospects. There was only one problem. All the players they attempted to sign/acquire, save Jayson Werth, didn't want to come to Washington.
The Nats had a deal all worked out with Kansas City that would have sent 2009 AL Cy Young Award-winner Zack Greinke to Washington for a package of prospects, but Greinke used his almighty no-trade clause and rejected a move to D.C. The Nationals did manage to sign Jayson Werth to a lucrative, seven-year, $126 million contract, showing that for some players, it isn't about winning and IS all about the money, so if Joakim Soria desires a hefty paycheck more than a shiny ring, he would be smart to accept a move to Washington (this is all assuming that the Nationals are on Soria's limited no-trade clause, and he actually has a say in the matter).
Soria would be the Nationals' closer, no doubt about it. The rest of the bullpen is fairly young and inexperienced, so adding a proven star like Soria could help out the other relievers. Soria probably wouldn't have exactly the same kind of effect as Stephen Strasburg, attendance-wise, but Werth should help out in that department, so at the very least, I'm sure their would be a fairly decent amount of Soria jerseys being sold if the Nationals can strike a deal for the closer.
7. Florida Marlins
The Marlins have a pretty good starting rotation in Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vazquez, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. What they are lacking is a bona fide closer.
For the past couple of seasons it's been Leo Nunez that's gotten the call in the ninth, but that clearly isn't working. Over the past two years, he's posted a 3.76 ERA with 15 blown saves. Those are not good closer numbers, which is why Florida could make an attempt to land a solid, young closer to pair with their solid, mostly young (Vazquez) rotation. Joakim Soria fits that bill, and, as with Washington, he would be a great asset to a bullpen that is very young and inexperienced.
If the Marlins want to compete with the juggernaut Phillies, as well as the Braves in the NL East, they need to upgrade their bullpen, and unless they want to invest a ton of money into free agent closer Rafael Soriano, they should definitely make a serious push to acquire Soria from the rebuilding Royals.
6. Philadelphia Phillies
Yeah, I know, the Phillies don't NEED anything else this offseason after swooping in and stealing Cliff Lee from the Yankees and Rangers, despite having the lowest offer of the bunch. However, adding an All-Star closer like Joakim Soria to shorten the games started by Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels would make the Phillies that much more dangerous.
Most teams expect their "ace" to go out there, pitch seven or eight quality innings, and hand it over to the setup man and the closer to finish it out. The Phillies have the chance to be able to do that four out of every five games they play, and pairing current closer Brad Lidge with Soria would make playing the Phillies seem hopeless to teams like the Pirates and Diamondbacks, as well as any other team in the NL.
It may not seem like Soria is a necessary addition for Philly, but he would make a huge impact.
5. Chicago White Sox
There's a very real chance that Matt Thornton will be the closer for the Chicago White Sox in 2011. After all it was he, not the now-former ChiSox closer Bobby Jenks, that made the 2010 AL All-Star team. He probably could do well in the closing role. In fact, I believe that Thornton will do well as the White Sox closer in 2010, if he's given the chance.
That said, it would be even better if he wasn't given the chance, and stuck to doing what he already does well, playing the role of the setup man. But this time, he wouldn't be setting up Jenks; he would be setting up Joakim Soria.
Now I don't know if the Royals would want to trade their All-Star closer within their own division, but for the right package of prospects, any team would trade almost any player anywhere, so you can't rule it out. There's no doubt a place for Soria on the south side of Chicago—it's just the question of what the Royals would want for him, and what the White Sox would be willing to give up.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels' starters are in need of a little relief. They traded their previous closer, Brian Fuentes, to the Twins last season, and they don't really have anyone that looks like a lock for the job. It could be new free agent acquisition Scott Downs who gets the job, but the Angels more than likely envision him as a setup man/lefty specialist. If that is indeed the case, they should absolutely look into trading for Joakim Soria.
Soria would give the Angels the true closer that they have been lacking since losing Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets following his record-setting 62-save season in 2008. And as an added bonus, Soria is only 26 years old, so they could negotiate a contract extension with him that could prevent them from being in their current "closer-less" state for a long time.
It would likely take a package of prospects including third baseman Brandon Wood, among others, to get a deal done, but if the Angels can sign free agent Adrian Beltre, they would happily give up their current third baseman for one of the best closers in baseball today.
3. New York Yankees
There is no one who has had a worse offseason than the New York Yankees. The Derek Jeter negotiations were painful to watch, Mariano Rivera actually had to "think about" his decision to rejoin the Yankees over signing with the Boston Red Sox, Andy Pettitte is seriously considering retirement, Cliff Lee made fools out of Cashman and the Steinbrenners by signing with the Phillies and to top it all off, Kerry Wood signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs when he could have easily made four times that amount by staying in New York.
Kerry Wood was unbelievable as the setup man for Mariano Rivera after joining the Yankees at the trade deadline, posting a 0.69 ERA over 26 innings of work down the stretch. The Yankees starting rotation is in shambles now that Lee is a Phillie and Pettitte is leaning towards retirement. Starters like Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and whomever the Yankees choose as their fifth starter are young and aren't likely to throw seven innings every time they take the mound, meaning the bullpen will need to shoulder more of the workload than they did last year.
Joakim Soria could effectively replace Wood's presence in the 'pen, providing a solid bridge to Rivera in the late innings. The Yankees have tons of young talent in the minors that they could give up to acquire Soria, although Cashman would likely not be inclined to include top catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine for a setup man, unless he could negotiate a long-term contract extension that would set Soria up to replace Rivera as the Yankees closer once the living legend decides to call it a career.
2. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves will be entering a new era in 2011 without Bobby Cox. But Bobby Cox wasn't the only one to retire. So did the Braves closer in 2010, Billy Wagner.
Without Billy Wagner, the Braves really don't have a true closer. In fact, according to the depth chart on the Atlanta Braves' website, if the season began today, 22-year old rookie Craig Kimbrel would be the closer for the Braves. He had success in the 20 2/3 innings he pitched in 2010, posting a 0.44 ERA over that stretch, but that's hardly enough to justify handing him the closer's role in 2011. The rest of the bullpen is actually very solid, but a true closer would greatly benefit this team.
Joakim Soria would go a long way towards helping the Braves keep up with the Phillies in the NL East in 2011. Adding a 26-year-old All-Star closer whom most of the Phillies hitters have little to no experience against would take a load of pressure off of the starters, giving them peace of mind, knowing that any lead is safe going into the ninth. The Braves can't afford to lose any games in the ninth inning in 2011, and Soria could make sure that they don't. The Braves definitely have the talent in their farm system to swing a deal for Soria, so they should at least look into acquiring him if the price is right.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
The main focus regarding the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason has been the loss of franchise icons Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, respectively. What really hasn't been addressed however, is the Tampa Bay bullpen...or lack thereof. With the exception of Andy Sonnanstine, the Rays have literally lost their entire 2010 bullpen. So far, Joaquin Benoit has signed with the Tigers, Dan Wheeler has signed with the Red Sox and Randy Choate has signed with the Marlins. Chad Qualls, Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier and Rafael Soriano are all expected to receive major pay increases and are considered extremely unlikely to re-sign with the club. This leaves Sonnanstine and J.P. Howell, who is returning for 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season due to injury, as the only members of the Tampa Bay bullpen. The rest of the empty slots will likely be filled by minor leaguers during spring training at the discretion of the Rays coaching staff, but adding a star reliever to mentor the rookies would do wonders for Tampa Bay.
Joakim Soria, despite being only 26 years old, could be that mentor. Obviously the Rays have the players to swing a deal for the All-Star closer. A possible package would probably have to include either Jeff Niemann or Jeremy Hellickson, so if the Rays are willing to give up their sixth starter, they could probably land Soria, assuming they are not blocked by his no-trade clause.
The Rays, despite being the reigning AL East champions, are expected to finish well behind the Yankees and Red Sox in their division in 2011. Being completely decimated by free agent losses and trades this offseason, the team is expected to enter a rebuilding stage, despite still having star players such as Evan Longoria, David Price, Matt Garza and B.J. Upton, due to the fact that their division rivals are so stacked with high-level, high-priced talent. However, nobody saw them coming in 2008, so maybe by adding Joakim Soria, the Tampa Bay Rays can yet again use the element of surprise to help them conquer baseball's toughest division.