Trading Joakim Soria is Fool’s Gold

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.

Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Billy Butler, Carlos Beltran, Joakim Soria, Johan Santana, Kansas City Royals, KC, MLB, Royals, Zack Greinke

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  • Scott W

    Definitely on your side on this one. We need to shake up the roster, perhaps a lot, but not by dealing Greinke, Butler or Soria. The rest of them I don’t care so much about, but those 3 should be basically untradeable unless a blockbuster opportunity comes knocking. And even then I would hesitate.

  • bfos7215

    Sorry, Soria just doesn’t have much of any value for this organization. This is an organization that is no where near competing, holding on to him in hopes we are in a playoff push in 4 years makes little sense to me.

    In rebuttal to your points:

    1. No one is suggesting to take whatever we can get. If there are so many closers on the market that Soria’s value is diminished don’t pull the trigger. It won’t be long before the landscape of available closers changes.

    2. All of these great points are also what would make him so valuable to any team. He’s top-notch, young, and cheap. He’s the perfect piece to get back the highest level prospects in return.

    3. It also sends the message that this organization is serious about building a contender the right way. And that doesn’t include holding on to a piece that doesn’t fit. It has nothing to do with spelling the end of Butler or Grienke’s time in KC.

    4. This is the one that I think is the most important. There is no core. Grienke and Butler don’t make a core. They are 2 great young players with nothing else around them. There is nothing coming behind them. The organization is so devoid of high minor talent that unless a major move is made, this team has no chance for the next 4-5 years. And we know where waiting for the next crop of draft picks lands us.

    5. Again, if you can’t find a trade that almost immediately fills two or three of the MANY holes in this organization, fine, don’t make a trade. But, those holes, that lack of any kind of core, is exactly why a trade would be something the organization should be looking into and remain open to.

    6. We do have to. Unless you’re fine with .400 seasons with a great closer who gets a save opportunity a few times a month.

    7. Right now, Soria’s value is sky high. Any number of things can change that. Right now, the odds that Soria will ever be a key piece on a competitive Royals squad is extremely low. They just have no other moves they can make.

    I’ll grant this, I’m not as big on trading him now as I was earlier in the year. This should have been done long ago. Same as trading Meche. And Meche is a great example of what happens when you are scared to make a move. He ends up with a busted arm and now we are stuck with his bloated contract and hoping he can rebound.

  • Wally Fish

    bfos7215,
    We clearly approach the Soria matter from opposite ends of the spectrum and that is awesome. Solutions to problems are most readily found through differing viewpoints and discussion. Of course in this case, it would help if one of us was the GM of the Royals …

    A group of 3 elite players is indeed a core to build around, at least to me it is. The Phillies are in the World Series with a core of 4 elite players: Hamels, Rollins, Utley, and Howard. No question that the Phillies supporting cast is far superior to that of the Royals. The good news is that the supporting cast is much easier to acquire than the elite core, and the Royals will have serious payroll flexibility to play with heading into the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

    With Butler, Greinke, and Soria in place, this team can compete not 4 years from now but in 2011. Right now, there is a lot of help that is 1-2.5 years away from the majors. Even with the expected attrition of some of the pitching prospects help will arrive from the minors and certainly be contributing to the team by 2012.

    Getting prospects back for Soria doesn’t guarantee they will fill any holes adequately while you open up another hole at the same time.

    One of the sayings about trades is that the team that gets the established ML talent is the one that typically “wins” the deal, and there is a reason for that. Yes there are exceptions, but I’d venture a guess that at least 9 out of 10 times, deals like trading Soria wind up backfiring on the team that acquires the prospects for the established talent.

    Just my take on things. At some point the Royals are going to HAVE to draw a line in the sand and hang on to some of these players if they ever expect to build a winning organization.

  • Michael Froeschl

    bfos7215,

    To rebut a few of your points:

    (2) True, it does. But it makes him more valuable to the Royals than it would say a Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, (insert $100 million payroll team).

    (4) St. Louis has a core of one player: Albert Pujols. Granted, he is the best, but the point is a core can be any number of players. Soria is part of the Royals “core.”

    (7) His value right now is not sky-high. He had some arm troubles this past season; as Wally pointed out, there are multiple other (albeit lesser) FA options; and most important, a closer typically nets the best return when a contending team midseason decides they need to beef up the bullpen. Desperation. That’s when teams will give up more than they imagined for a closer. Not the offseason.

    The Royals no doubt are devoid of talent at all higher levels of the organization. And I am not anti-trade-Soria. If the Royals can make a deal that makes sense, fine. That goes for any player, even Butler or Greinke. But elite players are not a dime-a-dozen. Elite players are the guys you hang onto and build around. Soria is an elite closer. I would rather see the Royals build around him than use him to gather a larger quantity of lesser (or unpredictable) players.

  • http://www.royallyspeaking.com Jeff Parker

    Well written and you laid out the case for keeping him much better than I did. They say a below .500 team doesn’t need a great closer but wasn’t Trey’s use of Soria a major issue on blogs and message boards all year?

  • Wally Fish

    Thanks for the kind words Jeff! In my opinion, a good closer is extremely valuable for winning or losing teams. What would the team’s record have been in 1999 or 2000 if the team had Soria-type player closing out games for them?

  • http://www.royallyspeaking.com Jeff Parker

    Definitely, those were some ugly bullpens.

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