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Bring Back Jack

#BringBackJack #FreeJack #NotTheEmilioEstevezMovieFreejackButASloganToBringBackJoakimSoria

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you who lost touch with him since tenure with the Royals came to an end in 2011, Joakim Soria is still pitching. From his third place perch on Kansas City's all-time saves leaderboard, he has hooked and changed his way from Texas to Detroit to Pittsburgh, and though he hasn't quite been the light in the darkness from 2008 to 2010, he has still managed to put up a couple of strong seasons after recovering from Tommy John surgery.

There's really a tale of two Sorias since missing all of the 2012 season: Detroit Joakim and Everywhere Else. In 2014, his first full season following surgery, Soria threw 33.1 innings for the Rangers with a 2.70 ERA and 1.06 FIP. He was traded to the Tigers, where he promptly imploded for a 4.91 ERA and 5.22 FIP in 11 innings.

Coming back to Detroit last year, he managed a 2.85 ERA, but had a 4.87 FIP and gave up home runs at an usually high volume (19% HR/FB). The Tigers, after becoming more and more aware of the futility that 2015 was becoming, traded him to Pittsburgh, where he thrived in 26.2 innings for a 2.03 ERA and 1.93 FIP. His combined time in Detroit was a 3.29 ERA in 52 innings, and a general depression of all of his peripherals. His time everywhere else since Tommy John has seen him pitch to a 2.80 ERA in 83.2 innings, which drops down to 2.40 when you look at just the last two seasons.

Now, maybe we shouldn't parse Soria's seasons since shrugging off surgery, despite the fact that he very evidently had issues while playing for the Tigers. Even still, he has put up a 2.99 ERA over the past three years, with 140 strikeouts in 135 innings and a 3.59 K/BB ratio.

The Royals have bullpen needs. No, they are not necessarily as pertinent as left field, or right field, or possibly second base, depending on the length of rope you're willing to give Omar Infante after the worst offensive season of 2015 (considering his contract, though, you'll probably just have to deal with it). None of those priorities diminishes the fact that they need to restock the relief corps somehow.

Between Greg Holland's injury, Ryan Madson's free agency, Luke Hochevar's uncertainty, Joe Blanton getting DFA'd during the season, Franklin Morales' seemingly non-repeatable performance, Chris Young's age and pitching profile, Kris Medlen's likely move to the rotation, and Danny Duffy's role ambiguity, the bullpen as currently constructed doesn't offer much in terms of stability.

Though there are likely role players waiting, they don't bring the impact that you would want out of a strong middle relief group. Louis Coleman exists on the periphery of a major league bullpen, but was pretty miserable in 2014 with a 5.56 ERA and threw just three innings last year. Tim Collins should be back at some point, but effectiveness is up for debate. Miguel Almonte didn't show well during his September callup. He could head to the bullpen, but the Royals might send him back to Omaha to continue on in a starting role.

The question really comes down to cost. MLB Trade Rumors has Soria pegged for a three-year, $18 million contract, which seems about right on a per annum basis, but feels like a year more than you might expect. Meanwhile, FanGraphs' crowdsourcing pegs Soria at two years and $7 million. My guess is that he gets two years with an option, and considering the Royals window of contention, that would fit with what they need.

Maybe that's too much to tie up in a relief pitcher. Well, another relief pitcher, after the $5 million Hochevar will get, and the $8 million that Davis will receive. But really, this has as much to do with irrational fan desire as it does with projections and performance. I want to see Joakim Soria pitch in a Royals uniform again. I want there to be a purpose to his existence on the club's roster, as opposed to the empty consolation that was his 115 saves from 2008 to 2010.

He was the beacon on the hill. The bright side of evening, the conspicuous consumption of a go-nowhere team for a wandering franchise. For years, Soria was the most nationally recognizable face in a Royals uniform. It'd be nice to see how things go when he's just one of the guys, while he's still got it, while he can still tilt rainbows from twelve to six with alarming precision.