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Shifting Outlooks


After acquiring Jonathan Sanchez, the Royals are supposedly done going after front-line pitching talent. That’s according to Jayson Stark who passed on the word he’d heard from other teams who’ve talked with the Royals.

A couple of days ago, that could may have been true. It may be true right this moment as well. At this point Dayton Moore may have no current aspiration to dig too deeply to find a starter via trade.

That could remain his stance through the whole offseason, if the Royals were in a vacuum and the rest of the league remained unchanged. But today, Jonathan Papelbon has reportedly come to an agreement with the Phillies to be their new closer. Boston, always pressured by the Yankees to keep up in acquiring players, may be looking.

And it happens that the Royals have a darn good trade chip on their roster.

I’ve never been one to advocate trading Joakim Soria. I understand that a closer on a 90-loss team is kind of silly, but in this case, Soria’s contract allows team options that could keep him a Royal until such time that Kansas City is approaching being a 90-win team. When that happens, I want a guy who I know can do the job when called upon. Despite his rocky 2011, Soria is still that guy.

I’ll even recognize that closers can have short shelf lives, burning out quickly after a couple of years. Injuries, scouting and general regression can all play a factor. Soria has been a key pitcher for the Royals since 2007, and the league has had years to get a book on him. Maybe that’s part of what led to his rough season this year. Maybe he didn’t tell anyone about nagging injuries.

Over the past few years, Soria has been among the most successful closers in baseball. His repertoire is unlike most closers, as he doesn’t rely on a big fastball to get batters out. He’s previously used a mix of four pitches, good movement and control to close out ball games. I expect a rebound in 2012.

The question then turns to “will Soria experience this rebound in Kansas City or elsewhere?”

For a change, I’m saying it’s time to trade him.

Boston is the obvious choice. They have a hole to fill and they have starters who would immediately improve the Royals rotation.

It depends on if the Red Sox are looking for a closer. Daniel Bard threw 73 innings and struck out more than a batter an inning while allowing less than one baserunner per inning. He had a three to one strikeout to walk ratio. Alfredo Aceves was usually used in middle relief but had a very good year as well. Heck, the Red Sox have Bobby Jenks for one more year, and he’s had closing experience (though injuries and ineffectiveness make him an unlikely candidate).

The Red Sox aren’t in dire need to go out and get someone, but if they do, some users on Twitter have tossed out the name of Clay Buchholz.

In 2011, Buchholz missed half the year with an ailing back but is expected to be fine by spring training. He isn’t dominant (6.9 K/9 over his career) and doesn’t have great control (career 3.7 BB/9) but induces groundballs more than half the time and he has a mix of pitches available, including a good fastball and a very good changeup. FanSided’s Tigers site Motor City Bengals had a brief scouting report on Buchholz before a game last May against Detroit with a nice glance at his pitch selection.

The Red Sox still have Jon Lester available as their ace and Josh Beckett is just as good. If the Red Sox feel they need to fill that ninth inning spot with an All-Star, Soria is the perfect fit, and with the resources to fill in with capable starters, they could part with Buchholz.

Will they?

It’s pretty unlikely, but it’s an interesting idea to mull over. Trading 70 innings of Joakim Soria is probably not worth 175-200 innings of Buchholz to the Red Sox, but it’s not a crazy notion either.

It’s up to Dayton, though. If what Stark reported is true and the Royals aren’t looking for someone to unseat Luke Hochevar at the top of the rotation any longer, then he may not even get the idea to ask Boston if they’d look at Soria. If, however, he recognizes that the situation has changed and the Royals have something of high value to offer Boston, he may shift his outlook as well.

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