The concept of trading Joakim Soria was tossed out earlier in the year, and is certainly not a new or groundbreaking idea. However recently the idea of the Royals trading their elite closer has started to gain some new momentum. For me the idea is terribly flawed. Trading Joakim Soria is fool’s gold.
There have been “trade Soria” posts on Royals Authority, Ball Star, and several other sites that I read but failed to make a note of along the way. In fact a few weeks ago I started writing an impassioned “trading Soria is nuts” post but chose not to publish it for two reasons. The first reason was that the idea seemed to fade away relatively quickly in the Royals blogosphere. The second reason was that my post was too emotional, lacking in fact, and the writing was not up to my standards. I tried to rework my arguments into a coherent, well reasoned, and well thought-out post, but by the time I had fashioned my piece into something almost worth publishing, it just didn’t feel right or relevant any longer.
Now things have changed. Sam Mellinger published his piece on Thursday and just yesterday Jeff Parker over on Royally Speaking published the rebuttal to the idea. Jeff gave me faith that I’m not alone in my belief so I’m going to give writing this a try once again.
There are 7 reasons why I don’t think trading Soria makes any sense for the Kansas City Royals.
- This offseason the market will be flooded with quality closers. Rumors are circling that both Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon, among others, could be acquired via trade. The 2010 free agent class features solid options like Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde, and Billy Wagner. Then there is another group of players that includes Chad Cordero, Brandon Lyon, Troy Percival, J.J. Putz, Takashi Saito among others. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Joakim Soria is better than any of the names listed. I think that goes without saying for fans of any team outside of the Red Sox. Sorry Boston fans, but despite the media hype and hoopla, Soria is indeed better than Papelbon. The more options and the more alternatives that are available, the less Soria can bring the Royals in return if they choose to deal him.
- One of the things that makes Soria so valuable is his youth and very team-friendly contract. Both of those factors make him more valuable to the Royals than to any other team. He’s 25 years old and he is under contract through 2014 if the team exercises all 3 club options. He will make $3 million in 2010, $4 million in 2011, $6 million in 2012, $8 million in 2013, and $8.75 million in 2014. That is a comittment of $29.75 million over 5 years. That’s an average of $6 million a year for 5 years. That’s five years that the Royals have to become a contending team. If and when they get to the point of contending within that 5-year window, they will need an elite-level closer to get the job done. They don’t need a decent closer or a good closer, but an elite closer. If they lack that piece by the time they are ready to make a deep playoff run, it is going to cost them far more than $6 million a year to add that piece. In 2009 he made a base salary of $1 million but, according to FanGraphs, received $8.2 million dollars worth of performance in return on their investment. He’s signed for well under market value and has exactly the type of contract that fits the Royals small market situation. His contract leads into point number three.
- Joakim Soria wants to be a part of the Kansas City Royals organization. This is a simple point, but one that should not be so readily dismissed by the Trade Soria camp. The 25-man roster is made up of people with real goals, real aspirations, and real relationships. If the Royals and Dayton Moore trade their closer, they may as well waive the white flag, and send Billy Butler and Zack Greinke out of town right behind him. Trading Soria sends the worst possible message to the other two young and elite talents on this team.
- Instead of sending the wrong message to the other stars, future free agent signings, and prospects coming up through the minors, the Royals need to build around their core. Greinke, Butler, and Soria need to be kept together. It is good for the long term health of the franchise and it shows that they will have a legitimate desire to win. It would show they have a legitimate desire to not just compete for the division title in a weak AL Central field, but to compete for a World Series title.
- Trading Soria for prospects opens up a huge hole at closer without necessarily filling holes elsewhere. Jeff Parker covers this very point exceptionally well, so I will quote him here. “It drives me crazy because I’ve watched KC for years trade off their best players for prospects. When has it ever turned out? What’s the sum total KC has received for Appier, Damon, Beltran, and Dye? Yeah I know those trades happened years ago and we have a different GM (more on him later today) but his record isn’t so hot either. I mean we already know what Moore likes in a player (low OBP, terrible defense) so trading Soria cripples an already suspect bullpen and probably weakens the offense and defense. I supplement Jeff’s thoughts with the simple idea that if you always trade your present for your future, you never actually live in the present. If the Royals are always playing for two years in the future, how can the team ever succeed before those two years? If the Royals are always playing for two years in the future, then a majority of their present day roster will always simply be guys who will be moved on for yet another distant future.
- This leads me to one of my own beliefs about building a successful and winning baseball team. Never trade elite talent for prospects unless you have to. There have been times when the Royals had no chance to sign a young elite player who was simply buying his time until reaching free agency. Carlos Beltran was such a case, and while Allard Baird may have missed the mark with the return he got for Carlos, it was the right move to make. The Minnesota Twins tried to keep Johan Santana by offering him a 4 year extension at $20 million a year and he turned it down. At that point they had no choice but to deal him. Joakim Soria is on the Royals roster and the team has no reason to move him right now.
- Right now is the key piece of the previous statement. There may be a point in the future when trading Soria makes sense. There may be a time when the potential return in a trade makes sense for the team. Even if the Royals and Soria ever get to that point, Santana and Beltran offer a cautionary tale about trying to fill multiple holes with one player. Right now is not that time.
Should Dayton Moore answer the phone if someone calls to inquire about Joakim Soria? Absolutely. He should take the call and entertain offers on any player in the organization. However, Dayton should not trade Joakim Soria for anything less than an Eric Bedard type of return, and even then I might still hesitate to finalize such a deal. Prospects are just that. They haven’t failed or succeeded at the ML level and even if they suceed, most will never suceed at an elite level like Joakim Soria has for three straight seasons.