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Former Royals reliever Joakim Soria retires

One of the best relievers in club history calls it a career.

New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Former Royals reliever Joakim Soria has decided to retire, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The 37-year old right-hander has pitched in 14 MLB seasons making 773 appearances. He pitched in 427 games for the Royals, with 162 saves, good for third in club history. His 2.82 ERA is the fourth-lowest of anyone that pitched at least 200 innings with the Royals.

The Mexican-born Soria was originally signed by Dodgers as an 18-year old, but required Tommy John surgery early in his career, causing him to miss two full years. He pitched a few innings in the Padres organization before the Royals made him the second pick in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. He made the roster and became one of the most trusted relievers on the team, eventually becoming their closer. He appeared in 62 games his first season, with 17 saves and a 2.48 ERA, and was fifth among all relievers in fWAR, earning him votes for Rookie of the Year.

Soria was an All-Star the next season, one of his two selections with the Royals. He posted a 1.60 ERA and finished second in the league in saves with 42. In 2010, he earned his second All-Star nod with a 1.78 ERA and 43 saves, at the time the fourth-highest save total in Royals history, and he even received down-ballot MVP votes. He was nicknamed “The Mexicutioner” by fans for his dominating performance, although he later disavowed that nickname due to violence in his native Mexico.

In the spring training of 2012, Soria tore his ulnar collateral ligament and opted to have a second Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire season. He left the Royals as a free agent that fall, and after two Tommy John surgeries, his career appeared to be in jeopardy.

Instead, Soria would go on to make 475 appearances after that, pitching for the Rangers, Tigers, Pirates, White Sox, Brewers, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays. He returned to the Royals in 2016 on a three-year, $25 million deal. Now in his early 30s, he wasn’t quite the same pitcher, but he was better than some fans gave him credit for, appearing in 129 games 2016-17 with a 3.89 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 122 23 innings, good for 1.7 rWAR over that time. In January of 2018, the Royals shipped Soria to the White Sox in a three-team trade that netted them Trevor Oaks and Erick Mejia.

Joakim Soria is 57th in baseball history in most games pitched with 427, and 42nd in career saves with 229. Aside from Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana, he is probably the best Rule 5 selection under the modern system. He stands a good shot to wind up in the Royals Hall of Fame as one of the greatest relievers in club history.


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