FanPost

What does the Sergio Santos trade tell us about the market for Joakim Soria?

While the Royals aren't actively shopping Joakim Soria during the Winter Meetings, reports at least have them listening to offers. And why wouldn't they listen? We all love Jack and the peace of mind he usually brings in the ninth inning. However we have the deepest bullpen we've had in over a decade, full of young, cheap, controllable arms with more on the way from the greatest minor league system in the history of whatever.

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Furthermore, Soria, while still a bargain, is no longer the uber-cheap player he once was, costing the Royals $6 million in 2012. And while many attribute his mid-summer shakiness to experimentation with different pitches, others may be concerned that his performance and his non-elite FIP of 3.60 in 2011 may give reason for concern. There is also the nagging minor injuries the club has never been able to diagnose and the fact that well, pitchers in general get hurt. And the fact that closers are just generally overrated and Soria’s ability to accumulate an arbitrary statistic invented by Ken Holtzman could probably be duplicated by someone who has dominated the 7th or 8th inning like Greg Holland.

This is a market flooded with closers, ranging from elite to "that’s guy is still in the league?" Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Frank Francisco (there is something about the name Francisco that must enable you to be a closer), Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel, Ryan Madson, Jon Rauch, and Fernando Rodney all hit the free agent market this winter with the PROVEN CLOSER label. Andrew Bailey, Huston Street, and Joel Hanrahan are all closers who could be shopped in the trade market. And heck, Joel Zumaya and Kerry Wood are there for the teams that love to stash closers on the disabled list. Its an Ed Wade smorgasbord.

Today, the Chicago White Sox shipped their closer – Sergio Santos – to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league right-handed pitcher Nestor Molina. Santos and Soria share some striking similarities. First of all, they are both Mexican tough, which is like, really tough (Santos was born in California, but is of Mexican descent). They are less than a year apart in age with Soria actually being the younger of the two at age 27. Both were hidden gems dumped by multiple organizations – Soria because of injuries and obscurity pitching in the Mexican League, Santos because he was a crappy hitting shortstop (hint hint, Tony Pena Jr.!).

Soria has the more proven track record with five full seasons of MLB under his belt and a 2.40 ERA and 9.7 K/9 ratio in 315 innings. Santos has just two years of MLB since converting to pitching with a 3.29 ERA and 11.6 K/9 in 116 innings.

Joakim Soria

Year

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

IP

WAR

2009

2.21

2.74

11.7

2.7

53.0

1.8

2010

1.78

2.53

9.7

2.2

65.2

2.0

2011

4.03

3.49

9.0

2.5

60.1

0.9

2012 $6 million club option
2013 $8 million club option
2014 $8.75 million club option

Sergio Santos – Age 28

Year

ERA

FIP

K/9

BB/9

IP

WAR

2010

2.96

3.10

9.8

4.5

51.2

1.0

2011

3.55

2.87

13.1

4.1

63.1

1.6

2012 $1 million

2013 $2.75 million
2014 $3.75 million
2015 $6 million club option
2016 $8 million club option
2017 $8.75 million club option

Santos is the cheaper option in the next few seasons, with more controllable years. Soria has the more proven record, although he has greater mileage on his arm.

Santos was dealt for Nestor Molina, described as a B+ prospect by John Sickels. The 22-year old Venezuelan spent most of his season in High A ball, but combined with his time at AA, he posted a 2.21 ERA in 130 innings with a ridiculous 148-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Today Sickels wrote:

Molina has a solid 90-94 MPH fastball and keeps it low in the zone, picking up grounders. He also has a very good splitter. His slider is still a work-in-progress according to scouts, but his delivery adds deception and helps his stuff play up. His statistics last year were simply spectacular, and it is unusual to see a relief-to-starting conversion turn out this positively. He wasn't some old guy tricking people; he was just 22 last year. If anything, Molina still doesn't get the respect he deserves as a prospect.

Keith Law was less enamored, writing about Molina:

The White Sox, on the other hand, get an extreme control right-hander without much of a breaking ball who could be a dominant two-pitch reliever, but is probably a year away from seriously contributing in the majors.

Jim Callis wrote in August:

It's all solid: fastball, slider, changeup, occasional curveball. Not sure you'd call any of his offerings a plus pitch, but he mixes them well and moves the ball around the strike zone. Not the sexiest scouting report, but that's the type of guy who winds up in the big leagues.

Alex Anthropoulous was quoted on XM that his staff projected Molina as a #3, possibly #2 type starting pitcher. Of course, General Managers are never the most honest people when discussing the value of players they have scouted, developed, or just traded.

So it appears as if the Jays got a pitcher whose most likely positive outcome is to become a closer-type reliever, whose upside includes a mid-rotation starter, and whose downside includes becoming Josh Banks. He is in many respects, what we thought we had with Joakim Soria when we first acquired him. This trade also takes another potential bidder for Soria away as the Blue Jays now have their closer position filled.

Knowing what you know about this trade, what do you think the market is now for Joakim Soria? Are you happy with that market and think the Royals should aggressively trade him? Or should we hold onto him and enjoy another year of that ridiculous curveball?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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