The KC Royals are rumored to be one of the top three suitors for relief ace Joakim Soria, according to Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech:
Fenech’s report follows earlier rumors that Joakim Soria was seeking a three-year, $27 million deal. While Soria is said to be willing to accept roles other than closer, he still wants to be paid like a top back-end guy.
All of this makes the Kansas City Royals interest in Joakim Soria rather puzzling. Certainly, they need relievers. They currently only have Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, and Luke Hochevar under contract for 2016, while holding arbitration rights on Tim Collins.
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The most obvious conclusion is that KC Royals GM Dayton Moore intends to replace the high-priced Greg Holland with Joakim Soria. The KC Royals front office has decided to non-tender Holland rather than retain him for his final arbitration year. Moore similarly cut bait on Soria in 2013 when he was returning from Tommy John surgery in favor of Holland. He might make the reverse decision now that Holland underwent elbow surgery during the 2015 season.
The move would put an end to the idea that the Kansas City Royals might sign Greg Holland to a two-year deal, with a small salary for a possible late-season return in 2016.
Yet, Luke Hochevar’s performance in the 2015 playoffs suggests he’s fully recovered from his 2014 Tommy John surgery and can hold down a spot as part of Kansas City’s three-headed bullpen monster. If so, then why is Dayton Moore chasing after a high-cost reliever like Joakim Soria?
Recent rumors about the KC Royals interest in Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. might hold the key. According to WEEI.com reporter Rob Bradford, Moore was dangling one of Kansas City’s back-end relief stars. I’m presuming that Dayton Moore isn’t giving up Wade Davis, and since Hochevar has only one more year on his contract, I would guess Kelvin Herrera was the bait.
Could Moore’s intention be to dangle Herrera in trade for outfield help? With bullpen dominance driving the KC Royals’ back-to-back American League pennants, more teams than ever before will want to emulate Kansas City’s shut-down relief model. Kelvin Herrera, who is signed to a bargain $2.5 million contract for 2016 and is not free-agent eligible until 2019, will never have higher trade value than this winter.
If the Jackie Bradley Jr. deal is still in play, with the Red Sox attempting to build a bullpen monster around newly acquired Craig Kimbrel (with Kelvin Herrera as the set-up man), then Moore would have found a cost-effective solution to his outfield problem. That would suggest a move away from bringing back the high-cost Alex Gordon.
The Kansas City Royals have to be exploring possible winter moves at this point. I doubt anything is decided. A smart general manager like Moore will certainly gauge the potential cost for each alternative before making a final decision, which is the likely source of these rumors.
Keep your ear to the ground KC Royals fans. It could become an interesting winter pretty quickly.