Reports have the Royals agreeing to a deal with reliever Joakim Soira for three years at around $25 million. As usual, there are rumblings of a mutual option for the fourth year. The Royals have not confirmed the deal, and may not until later in the week, likely pending a physical.
If the deal comes to pass, it’s a welcome home for Soria, who the Royals stole in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2006 and immediately paid dividends. Over five years in Kansas City, Soria had a 2.20 ERA, 160 saves and a 9.6 SO/9. His time with the Royals came to an early end as he underwent a second Tommy John procedure in April of 2012.
Here are three things to consider about the Soria signing:
— Three years seems steep on the surface, but this is the going rate for the relief pitching market. Hey, if Ryan Madson who hadn’t thrown in the big leagues for three years can get a three-year/$22 million deal after throwing just over 63 innings, Soria was always going to get a deal of similar length. Having said that, Soria at three years is a risk based on his health record. He’s four years removed from his second Tommy John surgery. Jeff Zimmerman, writing at The Hardball Times found (starting) pitchers had about 650 innings or four years between their first and second TJ procedure. (That finding comes with a small sample size caveat.) Soria had his first TJ surgery in 2002 when he was in the Dodger organization. His second was with the Royals in April of 2012. A larger gap in years, but the mileage between his first and second is a little less clear. Since returning to action in 2013, Soria has thrown 135 innings. Some may point to insurance as a cover against losing a player to injury (i.e. Jason Vargas) but the industry won’t cover for a recurrence. And Soria has already had two. No way the Royals can find insurances against a third.
Soria’s velocity is stronger than ever. His fastball in 2015 was consistently the hardest he’s thrown in his career.
— How will the Royals use Soria? He has saved 202 games in his career, and former closer Greg Holland was non-tendered as he recovers from his own Tommy John procedure. Yet Wade Davis has been the best reliever in the universe over the last two seasons. We can talk about shuffling roles and using ninth inning guys based on match-ups and whatnot, but the truth is the modern reliever likes to have a set job. Ned Yost likes it, too, and you can bet his deer hunting blind he’s not going to deviate from an automatic phone call to the bullpen. That much should be obvious. My thought is the Royals will move Kelvin Herrera back to the seventh inning, have Soria pitch the eighth and The Wade Davis Experience keeps the ninth.
— We will have to wait for the contract details to determine how this will impact the projected payroll. Earlier today, I had the Royals with 13 players under contract at a total of around $70 million. I’m guessing the Royals will use that mutual option to keep the upfront cash low, while giving him some money at the end of the three years. This is what they did to Jeremy Guthrie. I’m thinking Soria could cost the Royals around $7 million per season with the remainder on the buyout on the option.
A healthy Soria means the Royals again keep the games short for their rotation. Given the state of the rotation going forward, that is a good thing.