After declining his option, the Royals knew that there was a possibility that they would lose Joakim Soria to another team. Turns out, on day one of the Winter Meetings, that was the case. Soria has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Texas Rangers, per Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi. The contract is valued at $8-9 million and reportedly includes a third option year.
It’s expected that the deal will be finalized later tonight or tomorrow. Soria has to take a physical still and there are other details to work out.
The Royals would have had to pay Soria $8 million to retain him for 2013 which is just too much for him since he’s coming off of his second Tommy John surgery. While he’s still young, the track record of pitchers who’ve had more than one such procedure is not very good. Soria won’t be ready to return until about May as he rehabs from surgery. If he’s able to get back to his old form, he’ll be a great signing for the Rangers, who took a similar gamble with Joe Nathan (though he pitched in 48 games in 2011 for the Twins before the Rangers got him post-surgery). Soria had originally stated that he wanted to close, but must have softened on that wish or there’s some understood idea that if he’s healthy, he’ll close next year or later this season if Nathan is traded.
Soria never fit the mold of a typical closer, as he had multiple pitches in his arsenal and never got too far out of the lower 90s with this fastball. Regardless, he stepped in right out of the Rule 5 draft in 2007 and showed the skill to be a strong setup man and took over the closer’s role when Octavio Dotel was traded to Atlanta. From there, Soria had a great 2008 (1.60 ERA, 0.861 WHIP) and made his first All-Star team. His next two years were strong as well, and he looked like he was on his way to being the heir to Mariano Rivera‘s title as “best closer in the game”. From 2008 through 2010 as full-time closer, Soria threw 186 innings, saved 115 games and had an ERA of 1.84 and a 1.005 WHIP. He struggled in 2011 but his peripheral numbers were still generally strong.
He’s one of only two Royals to make more than one All-Star game appearance since 2000 (Mike Sweeney being the other).
Many had advocated that the Royals could have and should have traded Soria in the past, considering that a last place or lower win team doesn’t need a closer. His trade value got pretty high and the Royals never moved him. Consider it a missed opportunity.