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Joakim Soria Rumors
In Joakim Soria, the Tigers have found the top-quality closer they’ve lacked in the past several seasons, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. Soria has been successful in all ten of his save chances this season while allowing just two runs in 11 2/3 innings. Over the past several years, the Tigers have leaned on the often unreliable Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan, with a strong partial-season performance from Joaquin Benoit in 2013 providing a few months of respite. The Tigers bullpen was a problem last year, and Schmehl notes that much of it is still shaky. But for now, their closer problem seems to be solved. Here’s more from the American League.
- Jose Pirela‘s terrific hitting on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this weekend has the Yankees considering promoting him to the big leagues, Chad Jennings of the Journal News writes. Pirela, who’s returning from a concussion suffered in Spring Training, has had three or more hits in three straight games. Jennings notes that Gregorio Petit currently serves as the Yankees’ righty bench infielder, but that Pirela could provide more offense.
- Infielder Luis Jimenez, who the Red Sox claimed from the Brewers this weekend, allows Boston to use their other bench players more flexibly, manager John Farrell says (via Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald). “Righthanded utility guy, we like the defense, particularly at third, if that comes into play,” says Farrell. “It gives us some more flexibility with Brock (Holt) and Daniel Nava, and hopefully a chance to get back to 13 position players.” Jimenez rates as a plus defensive third baseman and could prove to be a valuable backup for Pablo Sandoval. Jimenez can also play elsewhere in the infield.
Matthew Marrota of Baseball Essential conducted an interesting interview with big league great Vladimir Guerrero and his prospect son, Vlad Jr. If you don’t believe Marrota’s description of the younger Guerrero as being the spitting image of his father in virtually all respects, the video included in the post ought to convince you. The one difference, according to Vlad Sr.? “He has more power, a lot,” says Guerrero. “I was very thin. Other than that we are the same player. We both played like men since we were very young.”
- Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets that he continues to hear positive reviews on infielder Hector Olivera from scouts. The latest word, per Badler, is that the Dodgers and Padres are the most likely teams to add the veteran Cuban free agent.
- Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson says his arm feels good after throwing two clean frames today, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. Hudson remains on track to contribute at the big league level this year after coming back from a second Tommy John surgery, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll work from the rotation or the pen.
- The Tigers have not made any attempt to work out a longer-term arrangement with reliever Joakim Soria, Tony Paul of the Detroit Free Press tweets. As he notes, that is not really surprising: Soria struggled upon being dealt to Detroit at the deadline last year, and Paul says there is “some skepticism” within the organization as to how he’ll perform this year. Assuming that nothing changes between now and the fall, the 30-year-old righty will hit the open market.
Soria, 30, was acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline for the steep price of right-handers Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson, but the results didn’t pan out for Detroit. Soria totaled just 11 innings with the Tigers and allowed seven runs (six earned), in part due to an oblique strain that cost him a month of action. He didn’t fare any better in the post season, as he was charged with five runs in one inning (two appearances).
Despite the struggles following the trade, Soria was an exceptional bullpen piece with the Rangers this year, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 in 33 1/3 innings. His cumulative stat line translated to a 3.80 ERA with a 48-to-6 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings during the regular season.
The Tigers are in desperate need of solidifying their bullpen and will hope that a healthy Soria can assist in accomplishing that goal next season.
As the Royals look to even the score in the World Series against the Giants, other teams in the division are shifting their focus to the offseason. Here are a few notes from the AL Central…
- The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5MM club option on Mike Aviles rather than pay him a $250K buyout, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Indians could have reasonably gone either way, as the team has some limited financial flexibility (a topic I highlighted in yesterday’s Offseason Outlook). It appears that his versatility will earn him a spot on the 2015 club. The 33-year-old batted .247/.273/.343 in 374 plate appearances with Cleveland last year.
- MLB.com’s Jason Beck spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and while the GM didn’t specifically say that the team would exercise its $7MM club option on Joakim Soria, he certainly implied as much with his comments: “We still have to make the final decision, but it’s a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also.” Dombrowski said that the team views Joe Nathan as its closer next season, though he indicated that Nathan will have to perform up to his previous capabilities in order to hold onto that role.
- The Twins declined their $3.6MM option on Jared Burton earlier today, and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the team hasn’t expressed an interest in bringing the 33-year-old back, even at a lower rate.
Though the White Sox weren’t in a position to add veterans on short-term deals last offseason, GM Rick Hahn feels that with the club closer to contention, that’s an avenue worth exploring, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. “We’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority,” Hahn said. “At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.” The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, the progression of Jose Quintana, and the selection of Carlos Rodon in last year’s draft have all accelerated Chicago’s timeline to contend again. Hayes feels that an outfielder and/or DH would make sense, and he also mentions the bullpen. I think they could look to upgrade behind the dish as well, as Tyler Flowers whiffed at a 36 percent clip last season and is a long shot (to say the least) to repeat his .355 batting average on balls in play. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently provided a preview of Chicago’s upcoming offseason.
More from the AL Central…
- Once arbitration numbers and league-minimum players are accounted for, the Indians project to have $72-75MM committed to the 2015 roster, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes in his most recent inbox piece. The team has typically operated in the $80-85MM payroll range, so there’s some degree of financial flexibility. However, Bastian notes that with the large number of contracts spread around the team, Cleveland is limited as to where and how it can upgrade what was a stagnant second-half offense. He feels that third base and right field are the most logical areas to target, noting that the trade market may be “more opportunistic” for the Indians this offseason.
- The Tigers will look to upgrade on a bullpen that melted down and, in the estimation of many, cost them their season in the playoffs, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. However, he cautions not to expect a new closer in 2015. There’s a “strong chance” that the team will exercise Joakim Soria‘s $7MM club option, Schmel writes, and he also notes that Joe Nathan, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, Blaine Hardy, Kyle Lobstein and Luke Putkonen are expected back. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Jim Johnson and Joel Hanrahan are likely on the outs. Schmel lists some speculative bullpen targets for Detroit, including Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller, Neal Cotts and Pat Neshek, and as he notes, the Tigers have been linked to Gregerson in the past and nearly reacquired Miller this past July.
Offense is at a premium this season and Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think it will improve any time soon, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. “The hitter’s at a total disadvantage right now,” Maddon said. “And there’s no advantages on the horizon. I don’t see it. That’s why it’s going to take a lot of creative thinking. It could be just going back maybe to something that had been done before. I’m not sure. But right now, offense is going south, and it’s going to continue going south based on pitching and defense. Everything, data, video, all the information benefits them over offense.” Maddon also pointed to improved bullpens throughout baseball as another factor in the depressed offensive numbers.
Here’s more from the American League:
- July acquisition Joakim Soria deserves a shot at pitching in high-pressure situations for the Tigers, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Soria could be the best relief pitcher the Tigers have and they paid a price to get him, so they should utilize him in the best way possible, Iott argues.
- The Indians led the majors in errors for much of the sesaon, but there likely won’t be sweeping changes in Cleveland’s infield, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.
- Nelson Cruz reiterated he would like to stay with the Orioles, but extension talks will still wait until after the season, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- Tim Bogar is now the clear runaway favorite to be hired as the next Rangers manager, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said on WEEI radio’s Dennis and Callahan show today that extension talks with ace Jon Lester have been tabled until the offseason. Lucchino reminded that Lester’s preference is to avoid negotiating during the season. Lester told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, that he wasn’t surprised to hear Lucchino’s comments (Twitter link). However, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com does hear from a source that Lester would be open to signing a midseason deal if the Sox were to offer market value for his services right now. The other possibility for Lester could be a trade, if the Sox fall further back in the East — a concept which Lester admits he has considered (via the Globe’s Nick Cafardo). Lester said if it came to that, he wouldn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the organization.
Here’s more on the BoSox and the AL East…
- Lucchino also said on WEEI that he expects the Red Sox to be active at the trade deadline, though he noted that nearing the deadline with a sub-.500 record is new territory for the Sox. Asked about buying or selling, Lucchino referred to the trade deadline as a “binary process” and implied that the Sox could do some of both.
- Also of note from Lucchino is that the Red Sox plan to engage John Lackey in extension talks after the season. Lackey’s Tommy John surgery in 2012 triggered a $500K option for the 2015 season due to an injury clause in his contract. Lucchino is quoted: “I think that there will be some contract negotiations with him probably at the end of the year as well and we’ll see what his frame of mind is with respect to longer-term contracts.”
- The Blue Jays were in the mix for Joakim Soria before the Rangers traded him to the Tigers, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Talks never became too serious or progressed to the stage where offers were exchanged, however.
- Morosi also notes that the Yankees are still looking to add a starter to their ranks (Twitter link). Earlier today, he noted that the Yanks scouted Ian Kennedy‘s last start, though reports from earlier today indicated that the Padres would need to be “overwhelmed” to move him.
- Rays president Matt Silverman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that there are some “obvious flaws” with the Competitive Balance Lottery, in which the Rays were not awarded a pick yesterday. As Topkin notes, seemingly less-needing teams such as the Cardinals, Orioles and Rockies all received picks. Silverman went on to say, however, that even if the lottery were better constructed, it would “only scratch the surface of the competitive balance issues plaguing baseball.”
Last night, the Tigers landed one of the top available relievers on the trade market in Rangers right-hander Joakim Soria. While Soria should go a long way towards shoring up Detroit’s bullpen, many have wondered if Detroit might continue to work the phones for an additional relief option, particularly given the struggles of left-handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol. I asked Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski earlier today if he might go after a southpaw in the next week.
“I don’t know I would get into what we’re specifically addressing, but we’re open-minded to different thought processes. Our bullpen has struggled at times and we want to have people that put up zeroes out there,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve tried a lot of guys at that and we remain open-minded if something makes sense to make us better before the trade deadline.”
The Tigers have been in need of bullpen reinforcements for some time and Dombrowski has been focused on Soria “for a while.” The GM said that he started chatting with Rangers GM Jon Daniels in June and things picked up more and more with time. And while Soria didn’t come cheap — he cost the Tigers promising pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel — he believed that it was a price they could afford to pay thanks to their pitching depth. Soria’s affordable $7MM club option also helped Dombrowski to pull the trigger since he will likely be more than just a rental.
“I don’t think it made the deal, but it was a real plus for us,” the GM said.
Of course, if things went differently for the Tigers this season, they might not have had to make a trade like this at all. Dombrowski acknowledged that he’d be in a “different situation” if Bruce Rondon was with the club. They’re also “not counting” on a 2014 return for Joel Hanrahan and the odds were termed as being “highly unlikely.”
While Soria has a long history as a successful closer, Dombrowski is insistent that Joe Nathan will continue to pitch in the ninth-inning despite his struggles this season. When asked what it might take for Soria to possible leapfrog Nathan and close out games, the Tigers GM declined to speculate or set expectations for the 39-year-old. For now, Soria is there to help build a better bridge to Nathan and the veteran appears to be all for it. Before pulling the trigger on the deal, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones asked Nathan and Ian Kinsler about how they feel Soria might fit in with the team. One of the replies they got back was, “Why don’t we have him yet?’“
Last night, the Tigers landed right-hander Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for two of their top prospects — right-handers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. Detroit has long been said to be in pursuit of relief help, and they’ve now added one of the top bullpen arms on the market. Here are some reactions to the deal as well as a few additional bits of info about the Tigers’ trade talks…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Soria was the Tigers’ primary bullpen target, and they didn’t pursue former Tiger Joaquin Benoit all that aggressively before landing Soria last night.
- Likewise, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Tigers were never in on Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon all that seriously.
- Soria himself is very excited to join the Tigers, agent Oscar Suarez old FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link), specifically mentioning excitement over a chance to win. That excitement isnt surprising for Soria, who didn’t have much of an opportunity at the postseason early in his career with the Royals (he wasn’t with the club for their recent improvements).
- The Tigers have the prospect depth to add another relief arm if they wish, but it will depend on the asking price, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Beck notes that Detroit probably wishes to avoid too much long-term depth to the farm system, but he mentions Chad Qualls as a possibly more affordable option to pursue. Beck also reports that the initial asking price on Soria was higher than the one the Tigers ultimately wound up paying.
- ESPN’s Keith Law understands the deal for both Detroit and Texas (Insider subscription required and recommended). While the Tigers paid a steep price, he notes that Soria will be worth about an extra win over the remainder of the season and will be featured in some very high-leverage postseason innings. From Texas’ standpoint, they get a raw but projectable 20-year-old in Thompson who needs to learn to get more plane on his fastball and develop a changeup to succeed as a starter, plus a controllable potential seventh- or eighth-inning reliever in Knebel.
- Jim Callis of MLB.com “loves” the Rangers’ end of the deal, calling Thompson a potential No. 2 or 3 starter and noting that Knebel has closer upside (Twitter link).
- Soria’s value in the postseason could be significant, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. Cameron examines the usage of teams’ best relievers in last year’s playoffs, noting that while a typical elite reliever throws about five percent of his team’s innings during the regular season, that number increases in the playoffs due to more off days and the increased importance of late innings. The Red Sox used Koji Uehara for 9.6 percent of their postseason innings, which translates to about 140 innings during the regular season (a value of 246 innings when accounting for the increased leverage index).
- R.J. Anderson and Jordan Gorosh break down the trade over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required/recommended). Anderson notes the steep price Detroit paid as well and wonders if the Tigers are done adding relievers. If Dave Dombrowski is serious about truly upgrading the bullpen (which he clearly seems to be), the Tigers should look to add another arm, Anderson opines. Meanwhile, Gorosh feels that Thompson could make an appearance on the back end of B-Pro’s offseason Top 101 prospects list, writing that he has the potential to be a “very strong No. 4 starter” and could have been the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s system (thereby implying that he likes him better than Robbie Ray).
10:25pm: The Tigers have announced the deal, making it official.
9:23pm: The Tigers have agreed to acquire reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com was first to report on Twitter. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed that an agreement is in place (via Twitter).
With the acquisition of Soria, the Tigers now possess both of the Rangers’ most recent closers (having signed Joe Nathan as a free agent over the offseason). It appears that Nathan will retain the closer’s mantle for the time being, but regardless the team will now have an additional premium arm to throw into high-leverage situations. At the moment, the team owns the fifth-worst relief ERA in baseball.
Soria, a 30-year-old righty, owns a 2.70 ERA with a spectacular strikeout to walk ratio of 11.3 K/9 against only 1.1 BB/9. Indeed, his FIP stands at a miserly 1.07, which handily leads all pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. Other ERA estimators (2.25 xFIP; 1.84 SIERA) concur in Soria’s excellence to date in 2014.
He is playing out the back end of the two-year, $8MM deal he signed to join the Rangers after Tommy John surgery led to the end of his tenure with the Royals. But Soria also comes with a seemingly reasonable $7MM club option. (That option would increase to $8MM if he finishes 55 games; he is sitting on 32 at present. The contract also includes performance bonuses.)
The return would appear to be substantial. Both Thompson and Knebel rated among Detroit’s ten best prospects coming into the year, per Baseball America, with the former landing at fourth and the latter at sixth on BA’s list. If anything, their stock has risen since that time.
Thompson, a 20-year-old starter, just earned a promotion to Double-A after posting a 3.14 ERA over 83 innings with 8.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 at the High-A level. Baseball America says he has mid-rotation upside. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and promising slider, but profiles as a mid-rotation arm if he can develop a consistent third pitch from amongst his other offerings (curve and circle change).
The 22-year-old Knebel, meanwhile, has already made his big league debut after being selected 39th overall in last year’s draft. Though he surrendered six earned runs in 8 2/3 MLB frames, he also notched 11 strikeouts against just three walks and has dominated minor league hitters. He profiles as a potential future closer, says BA, though Detroit had weighed the possibility of trying him as a starter.
With Soria and Huston Street now taken, the relief market now lacks somewhat for obviously available closers. Jonathan Papelbon is surely available, but of course comes with a still-sizable contract. The Padres will presumably listen on Joaquin Benoit, but may want a large return to part with him after dealing Street. And it remains to be seen whether names like Koji Uehara and Steve Cishek could be had.