Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trading Soria

Should the Royals trade Joakim Soria?

It's a question I've actually been pondering for a while. At the end of the 2011 season, I expected Soria to be in the Royals' bullpen come Opening Day 2012. I would have been shocked, frankly, if he were even mentioned as a trade possibility.

That was before Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies for 4 years and $50 million. And then Joe Nathan, one day after turning 37, signed with the Rangers for 2 years and $14.5 million. Suddenly the market for proven closers looks ridiculous. With limited free-agent options remaining, some teams might be very interested in Soria.

The particulars of Soria's contract ($6 million in 2012, club options for 2013 and 2014 at $8 million and $8.75 million, respectively) make him affordable for most teams, and the buyouts on those club options ($750,000 for each option) make him a lower risk. And yes, he struggled last year, but if he has indeed shelved the cutter he was experimenting with, he could easily get back to his All-Star form.

Don't get me wrong, I love Joakim Soria. There's no one I'd rather have on the mound as the Royals try to clinch the division next year (why not dream a little?). But closers can be found easily, a lot easier than a top starting pitcher or a power-hitting corner outfielder. Heck, look at the Royals' history: their best closer ever (Dan Quisenberry) wasn't even drafted. Their second-best closer (Jeff Montgomery) was stolen in a trade with the Reds. And Soria was a Rule 5 draft pick. Almost any failed starting pitcher can be a decent closer. And with the group of young pitchers the Royals had in the bullpen last year, they have options if they move Soria.

The first option would probably be Greg Holland, who was really the Royals' most effective reliever last year. I could easily see him as an effective closer. Also, the Royals added another option today by signing Jonathan Broxton. The 27-year-old had success as a reliever for the Dodgers for six seasons before an injury curtailed his 2011 season. The Royals say they will use him as a setup man for Soria, but he could certainly slide into the closer role if Soria were unavailable.

Given that, I think the Royals should certainly explore trading Soria. They shouldn't trade him just to trade him, but they should definitely listen to any offers. And they shouldn't be afraid to try to fill their rotation needs by trading him.

I know there was a Twitter rumor today about trading Soria to Toronto for Colby Rasmus. It looks like that has been denied by Dayton Moore as I write this, and I'm kind of glad. I'd still like to see Lorenzo Cain get a chance; I think he's better defensively than Rasmus and that is important in Kauffman Stadium.

But if the Royals can trade Soria for a good starting pitcher, they should definitely do it. I would miss him. But I think it would make the team better, and that's the most important consideration.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stick With Me Baby, Stick With Me Anyhow

...things should start to get interestin' right about now
(From "Mississippi," Love And Theft)

The Royals are developing a habit of making surprising trades, the kind of trades you don't hear about until they have been completed. That is certainly true of today's trade of Melky Cabrera to San Francisco for left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez and a minor-leaguer, left-hander Ryan Verdugo. There was certainly speculation about the Royals and Sanchez, but I didn't think any deal would happen this soon, or that it would involve Cabrera.

The more I think about this trade, the better I feel about it. Cabrera was certainly a vital part of the Royals' offense last season, but I think the Royals have upgraded their rotation here, and received a potentially useful bullpen arm for the future. Meanwhile, this apparently means Lorenzo Cain will finally get his chance in Kansas City, which should upgrade the defense.

I think the Royals did a great job of selling high on Cabrera. Melky's 121 OPS+ in 2011 was by far his career high. He did turn 27 during the 2011 season, so it is possible he could have several more good years. On the other hand, if you just looked at his career numbers without knowing his age, you would certainly notice that his 2011 season was unusual. I would have expected a couple more nice years from Cabrera, but probably not as good as he was this year.

Meanwhile, Sanchez will turn 29 in less than two weeks. He has been in the majors for six seasons and was a member of the Giants' rotation when they won the World Series in 2010. Coincidentally, 2010 was his best season, although he was decent in 2009. The problem with Sanchez has always been control; for his career, he averages 4.8 walks per 9 innings pitched. For comparison's sake, Danny Duffy averaged 4.4 walks per 9 IP in 2011, and he was by far the wildest starter on the team. The good news about Sanchez is that he gets lots of strikeouts: he averages 9.4 per 9 IP for his career. So the strikeout to walk ratio is almost 2:1, which is pretty good.

In my mind, any loss the Royals suffer on offense should be offset by Cain's superior defense, unless Cain is just a total disaster at the plate. Meanwhile, Sanchez should slide nicely into the 2 or 3 spot of the Royals' rotation, depending on other moves before Opening Day. He is almost certainly an upgrade over Jeff Francis, and probably over Bruce Chen (I do fear this is the end of Chen's time as a Royal; re-signing him would give the Royals three lefties with Mike Montgomery also knocking on the door).

The best part to me is that the Royals were able to upgrade their rotation and defense without parting with any prospects. So they still have the ability to make a major trade for pitching if they so choose. On the downside, Sanchez can be a free agent after the 2012 season, so it is possible he will be a Royal for only one year. But overall, I like this deal and I like the Royals' aggressiveness in making it.