Just two days after I fumed about the increasing speculation that the Royals will try to (or would be open to) trading either or both of Billy Butler or Joakim Soria in the wake of the Zack Greinke trade, another bit of information pops up that keeps the idea in the air.
To be clear, such a statement isn’t an endorsement of a trade to New York. It’s not a request. The way Soria describes it in the interview, it’s a formality. A bargaining chip even.
He seems indifferent about the prospect altogether. What interests me about the quote isn’t so much the words themselves, but the idea behind them. Soria didn’t have anything to do with the clause being included. I assume if left on his own, he wouldn’t have put it in there. That indicates to me that he’s comfortable doing what he’s doing and where he’s at. He just seems above any kind of squabbling about markets – this is a guy who wanted to be a dentist growing up, after all.
The other interesting nugget unearthed in the interview is Soria’s lack of interest in stretching out to become a starter.
This is a good thing.
I understand the argument behind making Soria a starter. He’s got great stuff, a wide array of pitches, and there’s that perfect game in everyone’s mind that he tossed right after the Royals took him in the Rule 5 draft before the 2007 season. I’m sure he’d be quite good as a starter. He shouldn’t make that change because he’s automatic as a closer.
Closers are kind of like the big toy every Christmas season. Teams want one so desperately, they’ll line up early for the new flashy model. If it comes to it, they’ll overpay for what they covet. Often, they get it home and it turns out to be an overpriced piece of junk and the kid would rather play in the box it came in or with the 90 cent rubber ball they got in their stocking.
But when you do find one that works perfectly, you need to be sure you keep it around.
Granted, Soria has a smaller sample size to look at, but when compared to another great closer, Mariano Rivera, he has him edged out in ERA+ (219 to 205), strikeout rate (9.9 K/9 to 8.1 K/9) and is right in line with Rivera’s K/BB ratio – both are around 4.0. Soria, at 26, is 15th among active saves leaders. Brian Wilson and Huston Street are just ahead of him, but they’re both older and have been in the majors longer.
Not only is Soria the best young closer in the game, he might be the heir apparent to be the best closer in the game period. He’s not that far from that distinction today anyhow.
To me, if he were to be traded, with the volatile market for closers, the Royals would be right to demand a similar haul that they sought for Greinke. That means a couple of solid arms, probably an outfielder with power, and perhaps a younger prospect.
Soria, from 2011 to 2014, could be worth much more than the $27 million he’ll make over those four seasons (if the Royals pick up his options). He has a career WHIP of 0.988. He’s spent 40 days total on the disabled list and has the fluid mechanics and delivery that look safe for future projection. Like Rivera, he has an easy delivery that makes his fastball pop a bit more.
In a hypothetical situation where the Royals were for sure going to get the kind of return they deserve for four seasons of highly affordable elite relief pitching, they’d have to have the replacement in place before finishing the deal. In 2007, Soria’s emergence made it much easier for the Royals to part with Octavio Dotel (not like they were working hard to retain him anyway – he was destined to be trade bait the day he signed). The Royals would have to see what they had from Jeremy Jeffress, Louis Coleman or Tim Collins to decide who they might use to replace Soria.
Mostly though, I’m tired of the idea that we should keep stockpiling prospects. At a certain point we have to have a team on the field, playing and winning. You can’t do that when you keep turning players into prospects – it’s like moving the goal posts during the game. The Royals have to have some established players already set at the big league level when the prospects trickle upwards. Otherwise you’re just walking in the dark with no idea what you have.
We know exactly what we have in Soria. He’s a keeper.