Joakim Soria Rumors

Cafardo’s Latest: Gray, Iwakuma, Red Sox, Padres

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo recaps the trade deadline moves, evaluates which teams fared well or poorly with their transactions (or lack thereof) and also looks ahead to the August trade market in his latest column.  Some highlights…

  • “Plenty of teams” approached the A’s about a trade for Sonny Gray, though unsurprisingly, Oakland held onto the young ace.
  • The Mariners believe they can re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma (a pending free agent) for one or two more seasons.  For this season, the M’s decided to keep the righty at the deadline, though Iwakuma drew interest from multiple teams.
  • Mike Napoli could be an August trade candidate, as one GM called him “a guy teams want to see a little bit more of” to see if Napoli can heat up at the plate.  The Red Sox first baseman is only hitting .206/.307/.387 with 13 homers over 362 plate appearances.  Boston shopped Napoli prior to the July deadline though the Pirates were the only team known to have any interest.
  • There was some deadline day speculation that the Padres could make a run at Pablo Sandoval, though no deal materialized.
  • The Red Sox pursued Cole Hamels for 18 months but are still looking for a rotation-topping ace as Hamels ended up dealt to Texas.  Cafardo wonders if all this wasted time will hurt Boston, as he feels the Sox could’ve matched or topped the prospect package the Phillies got from the Rangers.  Now, the Red Sox will have to spent far more than Hamels’ remaining salary to obtain an ace this winter.
  • One team evaluator though the Phillies ultimately fared well in their deadline deals for Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere, though “from where they started in their demands to where they wound up, it’s quite a fall. But if you look around at other deals, nobody was giving up No. 1 or 2 prospects. They settled for quantity in some cases, but they got a fair share of quality, as well.”
  • Cafardo was surprised to see the Tigers deal Joakim Soria, “as relievers of this ilk are hard to come by and the Tigers have a history of being unable to identify them. They finally did with Soria and yet they traded him.”
  • The fact that the Tigers entrusted GM Dave Dombrowski with trading Soria, Yoenis Cespedes and David Price could be a sign that Dombrowski may remain in Detroit, Cafardo opines.  The two sides hadn’t made progress on an extension as of early July, though Dombrowski’s last extension to remain with the Tigers (in 2011) wasn’t settled until August of that year.
  • You can add the Nationals to the list of teams that showed some interest in Justin Upton, as Cafardo writes that Washington “considered” a move for the Padres outfielder.
  • Speaking of Upton, Cafardo thinks the Padres could move both he and James Shields in August if the team finally decides they’re out of the race.  I would think an Upton deal would be extremely difficult, since any number of teams would put in waiver claims to block him from going to a rival and wouldn’t hesitate taking on the roughly $5MM remaining on Upton’s contract.  As for Shields, his much longer and pricier contract makes him unlikely to be claimed on waivers, so Cafardo thinks a team like the Yankees could make a move for Shields to upgrade their rotation.

Pirates Acquire Joakim Soria

The Pirates announced on Thursday that they have acquired Tigers closer Joakim Soria in exchange for shortstop JaCoby Jones.

Joakim Soria

The Pirates have been known to be interested in bullpen help since last week and swung a minor deal to add Joe Blanton to the mix last night, but Soria would represent a much higher-profile addition to the Pittsburgh ‘pen. A free agent at season’s end, the 31-year-old Soria is earning $7MM this season. He began the year as the Tigers’ primary setup option, but Joe Nathan blew out his arm in the early stages of the season, and Soria has seamlessly returned to a ninth-inning role with which he is quite familiar.

Soria has worked to a strong 2.85 ERA in 41 innings this season, although he’s also been uncharacteristically homer-prone, yielding what is already a career-high eight long balls on the season (1.76 HR/9). Home run rate can have quite a bit of randomness to it, so perhaps the Pirates are unconcerned (they’ve done well with other previously homer-prone arms such as A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon). Both Soria’s walk rate (2.4 BB/9) and strikeout rate (7.9 K/9) are also down from an excellent 2014 season, but his bottom-line results remain strong.

It seems unlikely that Soria would supplant Melancon as the team’s closer, so the more likely scenario is that Soria will share setup duties with left-hander Tony Watson, who is enjoying a strong season in his own right. The Pirates have received strong production from their relief corps as a whole, although it’s been somewhat of a top-heavy unit, and a rental of Soria would deepen the group and help take some pressure off the rotation in the season’s final months.

Jones, a third-round pick from the 2013 draft, ranked as Pittsburgh’s No. 12 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason Top 30. Baseball America placed Jones 10th on their midseason Top 10 list for the Pirates.

Both Baseball America and MLB.com praise Jones’ combination of power and speed but note that he’s raw and a bit inexperienced at shortstop after playing mostly second base and center field at LSU. BA notes that he has a propensity to swing and miss, while MLB.com praises his aggressive style on the basepaths and pure athleticism.

Jones recently reached Double-A but has just three games at that level. He’s batting a combined .260/.319/.398 across two levels in the minors this season and is a .277/.336/.445 career hitter overall in his pro career.

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first connected the two sides (via Twitter), and MLive.com’s James Schmehl said a deal was getting close (also via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the deal was done (Twitter link), and Biertempfel tweeted that Jones was headed to Detroit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates Pursuing Joakim Soria Trade

The Pirates and Tigers are nearing a trade that would send Joakim Soria to Pittsburgh, reports MLive.com’s James Schmehl (via Twitter). Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had recently reported (also via Twitter) that the Bucs had interest in acquiring Soria.

The Pirates have been known to be interested in bullpen help since last week and swung a minor deal to add Joe Blanton to the mix last night, but Soria would represent a much higher-profile addition to the Pittsburgh ‘pen. A free agent at season’s end, the 31-year-old Soria is earning $7MM this season. He began the year as the Tigers’ primary setup option, but Joe Nathan blew out his arm in the early stages of the season, and Soria has seamlessly returned to a ninth-inning role with which he is quite familiar.

Soria has worked to a strong 2.85 ERA in 41 innings this season, although he’s also been uncharacteristically homer-prone, yielding what is already a career-high eight long balls on the season (1.76 HR/9). Home run rate can have quite a bit of randomness to it, so perhaps the Pirates are unconcerned (they’ve done well with other previously homer-prone arms such as A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon). Both Soria’s walk rate (2.4 BB/9) and strikeout rate (7.9 K/9) are also down from an excellent 2014 season, but his bottom-line results remain strong.

It seems unlikely that Soria would supplant Melancon as the team’s closer, so the more likely scenario, if a trade is indeed completed, would be for Soria to share setup duties with left-hander Tony Watson, who is enjoying a strong season in his own right. The Pirates have received strong production from their relief corps as a whole, although it’s been somewhat of a top-heavy unit, and a rental of Soria would deepen the group and help take some pressure off the rotation in the season’s final months.

This post was originally published on July 30, 2015 at 4:48pm CT.



Tigers Still Not Selling, Looking At Pitching; Mike Leake “On Radar”

12:53pm: Reds starter Mike Leake is on Detroit’s radar if they choose to buy, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter.

12:34pm: At least one club that is selling pitching believes the Tigers to be “actively shopping,” ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.

12:08pm: The Tigers have informed clubs over the last day that they are still not selling and could look to add arms, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. That matches up with statements yesterday from GM Dave Dombrowski, who told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that his club is “doing everything we can to try and qualify for the playoffs.”

There has been some back and forth on Detroit’s trade status over the last week or so. While an earlier report indicated that the team would be shifting into seller status, and Dombrowski has acknowledged the possibility, more recent indications (including the most recent reports, cited above) are that the decision has yet to be made.

The Tigers have not exactly done much on the field to improve their position. Since exiting the All-Star break, the club has put up four wins against seven losses. As things stand, Detroit is 12.5 games back of the Royals in the AL Central and 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.

Obviously, the two major trade pieces that could be had from the Tigers are ace David Price and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The addition (or exclusion) of either or both to the market will have significant ramifications for other starting pitching and corner outfield trade targets. Closer Joakim Soria could also be an important chip who could have implications for the bullpen market.


AL East Notes: Orioles, Samardzija, Soria, Carrasco, Latos

Despite very public statements indicating that the team is all in on 2015, the Orioles are now giving “serious consideration” to selling, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (Twitter links), Baltimore owner Peter Angelos has previously been disinclined to authorize such a move, but that could change (at least in theory) with several of the team’s better players set to reach free agency. Of course, executive vice president Dan Duquette said on Wednesday that his club will be a buyer. But a sweep at the hands of the division-leading Yankees has certainly impacted the team’s chances of making a run at the AL East.

Here’s more from the division:

  • The Blue Jays remain in “active discussions” with the White Sox about right-hander Jeff Samardzija, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Jays have been said to have “strong” interest in adding Samardzija, a potential free agent at the end of the season. Upgrading the pitching staff is the Blue Jays’ top priority in the week leading up to the trade deadline, and Samardzija, whose eight-inning gem on Thursday dropped his ERA to 3.91, would certainly do that. Over his past eight outings, Samardzija has a 2.55 ERA, and he’s lasted at least seven innings in each of those contests. As Peter Gammons pointed out earlier today on Twitter, for a team with bullpen woes in addition to rotation troubles, adding a pitcher that is capable of effectively working deep into games should carry even greater appeal.
  • If the Tigers do end up selling, the Blue Jays will have interest in closer Joakim Soria, tweets Anthony Fenech of the Detroit News. Soria would be a pure rental, as he’s a free agent at the end of the year. He’s earning $7MM and has posted an even 3.00 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in his 39 innings this season, though he’s also had an unusually difficult time with home runs, which could make pitching at the Rogers Centre a challenge.
  • The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of Scott Kazmir illustrates that it’s “becoming more clear” that the team is open to a rental acquisition, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Davidi notes that the Kazmir talks were never going to get off the ground based on the asking price — “think Jeff Hoffman or Daniel Norris,” says Davidi — especially considering Kazmir’s injury scares. Health concerns are another reason to wonder if the Blue Jays will seriously pursue Johnny Cueto or not, he adds. While the Blue Jays may be warming to the idea of a rental arm, they can’t afford to have their acquisition miss any time, and Cueto’s had a pair of minor elbow issues in 2015.
  • While the Blue Jays made a “big push” to land Carlos Carrasco from the Indians, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), the trade simply “didn’t get done.” Cleveland isn’t necessarily motivated to trade a starter, though they’re also not entirely ruling out the possibility.
  • The Yankees have shown at least some interest in Marlins righty Mat Latos, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports on Twitter. They join a growing list of clubs that have shown some inclination to take a chance on Latos’s resurgence and past success. New York has given public indication that it is not lining up any major moves, but it would be surprising if it does not at least make a few acquisitions at areas of need, and rotation depth could certainly make sense.

AL Central Notes: Buxton, Sox, V-Mart, Tigers, Young

Speaking about the team’s recent promotion of top prospect Byron Buxton, Twins GM Terry Ryan told Kris Atteberry of Twins Radio (audio link): “We brought up Buxton because he’s the best one we had available at the time. We have a few guys down there that we considered, but they aren’t as good as Buxton, so we brought up Byron to give him a shot. … I’m hoping that things go well enough that we don’t have to worry about it.” Based on Ryan’s comments, it seems that Buxton will have the opportunity to play his way into a regular role moving forward. A productive Buxton would certainly increase Minnesota’s chances of remaining in the hunt for the division and could also eliminate a potential area of need in trades — an upgrade in the outfield.

More from the AL Central…

  • Asked by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin about the possibility of the White Sox becoming deadline sellers, David Robertson said that he would be understanding of any route that GM Rick Hahn felt was best for the team. “If that happens, you know, that’s just part of the game,” said the closer, who signed a four-year, $46MM contract this winter. “That’s obviously a decision that I’m not even involved in. The organization has to do what’s best for them. If that’s the way this season turns out, then so be it.” Robertson, however, feels that the Sox still have the pieces to contend and believes a turnaround is possible with strong performances against division rivals in Kansas City and Detroit. Chicago is currently seven games under .500 and nine back in the AL Central.
  • Victor Martinez will rejoin the Tigers this weekend in New York and could be activated from the disabled list at that time, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. Martinez has been out since May 19 but looked strong on a Triple-A rehab assignment to date, going 4-for-12 with a double in 12 plate appearances.
  • In a mailbag column, Schmehl addresses potential trade scenarios for the Tigers this summer, reporting that the team will consider adding starting pitching. Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir are two seemingly speculative names tossed out by Schmehl. He adds that Detroit is likely to add a relief arm as well, though not an elite closer like Aroldis Chapman, as the team is happy with Joakim Soria in the ninth inning.
  • In a piece for FOX Sports, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines the unique nature of Chris Young‘s ability to drastically outperform his FIP by virtue of consistently posting one of the lowest BABIP marks in baseball. While there’s a good amount of luck involved in BABIP, Young’s extreme fly-ball tendencies — specifically his ability to induce infield flies — has allowed him to post a .240 BABIP dating back to 2006. Cameron notes that in such a heavily analytical era, it’s not surprising that teams were so reluctant to gamble on a 36-year-old soft-tosser with a 5.02 FIP in 2014, but Young’s mastery of a rare skill set has made him a bargain.

AL Notes: Soria, Pirela, Jimenez

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.

Quick Hits: Vlad, Olivera, Hudson, Soria

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.

Tigers To Exercise Joakim Soria’s Option

The Tigers will exercise their $7MM club option on right-hander Joakim Soria, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter).

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.


AL Central Notes: Aviles, Soria, Burton

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.