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.