Home > Uncategorized > To Trade or Not To Trade – Joakim Soria Edition

To Trade or Not To Trade – Joakim Soria Edition

A lot has been made by the recent reports that the Yankees were rebuffed in their attempts to acquire Joakim Soria from the Royals in exchange for catcher Jesus Montero and middle infielder Eduardo Nunez. Without a confirmation from any party involved in the trade talks, there’s no way to know for certain if these rumors are true. This news came in response to the Royals saying that Joakim Soria was not available in a trade during this off-season. The fact that the Royals felt compelled to announce that fact lends some credence to the truth of these rumors or at least the fact that teams had contacted Dayton Moore, but we cannot know for sure.

What I want to look at today is whether or not the Royals should trade their star closer. This argument has become almost as divisive as the old standby argument of whether or not the Royals should try him in the rotation. For the record, I still say no about that. The main argument about whether or not the Royals should trade Soria is really a two tiered argument. Those who believe he should be traded believe that an elite closer on a bad team is wasted. It’s hard to disagree with that aspect. Look at the 2010 season when the Royals won 67 games and Soria saved 43 of them. Yeah, it was nice to get to the ninth with a lead and know it was over (which is a sharp contrast to the pre-Soria, post-Montgomery days), but knowing that Dayton Moore is way more competent in finding bullpen arms than Allard Baird, how many more wins did Soria provide? Three? Six? More importantly to this side of the argument, he was only able to help the Royals to 67 wins. That’s not winning an AL Central title anytime soon.

The other half of the argument is that the Royals are a special case among rebuilding teams. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Royals have a super-duper farm system. Yeah, I added the duper. Prospect gurus are stumbling over themselves to praise the Royals farm system calling it the best they’ve seen and saying that they have no way how even the Royals can screw this up. So the proponents of trading Soria see this as an opportunity to add even more top flight talent to the deal, which would be done if the Royals were to take the rumored Yankees offer. To add to that, many believe that any number of prospects in the Royals system could become a closer in the near future and offset the loss of Soria. The consensus is that 2011 is a pretty much lost year while 2012 will be getting the young players’ feet wet with experience before getting ready to make a playoff run in 2013. Soria can be under Royals control through the 2014 season with affordable options in his contract. While it would be great to have a top flight closer for those two years of contention, if there’s any slip ups and things get pushed back a year, Soria is continuing to do his magic on a bad team.

I’ve seen an argument questioning a closer’s value centered around WAR in recent days, but I just can’t buy that WAR accurately depicts a great closer. Or even a mediocre one. According to Baseball Reference, Soria had a 3.8 WAR in 2010, which was a career high. He’s had totals ranging from 2.7 to that 3.8 number. While that’s a very good WAR, there’s intrinsic value for a young team to know that their lead is safe in the ninth inning and the Royals qualify for a young team in 2011 and still getting younger. As amazing as it would be to see a lineup with all of the Royals current prospects plus Butler plus Montero, I’m not sure how much it’s going to matter if their confidence is shot because they’ve blown three straight ninth inning leads with Ricky Bottalico’s nephew in the closer’s role. I don’t know if his nephew plays, but if he does, I’m sure he’s a closer, and I’m sure he’s less than adequate.

There’s value in the fact that Soria provides the Royals with a legitimate Major League arm in the back of the bullpen. I’ll agree right off the bat that a great closer is an absolute luxury on a bad team, but no matter what the team says, a ninth inning loss is crushing. Yes, it only counts for one in the standings, but it stings and sticks with you for way longer than a 6-3 game that your team never led. Losses happen; ninth inning losses really hurt, though. With a team as inexperienced as the ones the Royals will field over the next couple of seasons, it’s important to do everything that the team can to keep their confidence up. Winning teams have far fewer problems on average than those who lose.

The two biggest factors off the field is that Soria wants to be a Royal. He enjoys pitching in Kansas City and he likes wearing the royal blue. And he’s locked up for four more seasons on a very team friendly contract. Yes, his idol is Mariano Rivera and Soria’s free agency coincides with probably pretty close to when Rivera is going to hang it up. Maybe he doesn’t stay past his current contract, but four years is a long time before we have to worry about that. It makes very little sense to me that when trying to build a team to win the World Series that you would trade one of the players who would make such a huge difference in a postseason series. Look at what the Yankees have been able to do for the last 15 seasons. Do you think they would have won all those titles without Rivera in the bullpen? Soria’s the closest thing to Rivera in baseball right now. I don’t care how many strong bullpen arms the Royals have in the system; I’m almost certain that none of them will end up as both good and unflappable as Soria. It’s a deadly combination. I’m sure that any number of them could close games effectively, but there’s just something about the presence of Soria in the back of that bullpen that cannot be replaced. If you’re blown away, I guess you sort of have to trade him, but that’s true with any player. Otherwise, I think he has to stay a Royal for the foreseeable future.

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