The Mexicutioner

The trading of Zack Greinke today signals the Royals are building for the future before day one of the 2011 season. Their starting rotation is now Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Vin Mazzaro, Sean O’Sullivan, and maybe Mark Gubicza at this point. With a rotation like that, and a bullpen that looks even less stable, it does not make much sense for the Royals to pay $10m over the next two seasons to closer Joakim Soria. Enter the Rays who currently have a gaping hole in the back-end of the bullpen.

Soria has quietly been one of the better closers in baseball having converted 115 of his last 121 save opportunities  with impeccable peripherals. Cot’s shows that he can block trades to the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, and Cubs that limits where the Royals can move Soria. Additionally, trading partners would be limited by the fact the Royals have the best farm system in all of baseball so the typical dangling of prospects for Soria would not come into play as much as it normally would.

The Royals clearly have a need for starting pitching at the major league level and the Rays have a considerable amount of depth at that position within the organization. Years of control of Jeff Niemann for Soria, perhaps?

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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5 Responses to The Mexicutioner

  1. buddaley says:

    I like the idea but have one reservation. I dispute the notion that the Rays have good starting pitching depth. The Rays have 6 candidates to start (with Hellickson) plus Sonnanstine. Is there really anyone else who we can say with any confidence is ready to contribute in the majors in 2011?

    How many teams get through a season with 5 starters each getting at least 29 starts? In the AL East, it was only the Rays. NY got 19 starts from 3 pitchers other than their starting 5. Two of those 5 got 21 and 26 starts each. Boston needed 6 extra pitchers to accumulate 19 starts as 2 of their regulars got 25 and 21. Toronto used 6 pitchers to get 33 starts, with 2 regulars managing just 26 and 12 starts and Baltimore used 4 extra starters for 21 starts as 2 who began in the rotation got 18 and 11.

    I haven’t checked, but I doubt many other teams matched the Rays in this department. I think most teams use anywhere from 7-9 starters to complete the season. Should the Rays deal Niemann or Garza, we are essentially down to one replacement should any of the regular rotation need to be replaced for any period.

    On top of that, if it is straight up Niemann for Soria, that is exchanging a starter for a reliever, a great one no doubt, but is the gap between Soria and whomever we use to close as great as that between Niemann and whomever we might use to replace him in the rotation? I don’t mean the gap in talent; I mean the gap in usefulness.

    I mean these as real questions, not rhetorical ones. Are we being seduced by the concept of the big name closer to over-value Soria vis a vis a solid starter?

    • Part of my motive is jaded by the fact I have little faith in Niemann turning into a “workhorse.” I view him as the 6th starter on the team right now talent wise and Soria is more movable on the market if the next two seasons were not to work out. I agree the move is risky for 2011 as the club would have to rely upon minor league free agents to spot start but I think one of the Alex’s (Cobb or Torres) would be ready for 2012

      • buddaley says:

        I can buy that, although he has started 29 and 30 games the last 2 years with decent results and peripherals. And perhaps it is worth the risk for 2011 if it sets us up better for 2012 while not simply dismissing the coming year.

        May I assume you also do not buy into the notion that Jeff could become a valuable reliever in TB? Because if he can, while that would make it a trade of one reliever for a better one, it might also be less expensive to keep him with the idea that he remains in the rotation in 2011 and then transfers to the bullpen when our system’s pitching depth makes him more useful there.

        I may be jaded by my antipathy to the mythology of the closer, perhaps an antipathy that becomes irrational at times. Too often I read posts and articles that argue for trading regulars or starters for name relievers or for spending multi-millions on Fuentes or F. Rodriguez or Gregg, and I recoil. Soria is certainly in another category. Nonetheless, I am unconvinced about the role itself, not the talent of the pitcher.

      • I’m also factoring in health issues Niemann had in 2005 and 2006 in his development. I’m also willing to give Niemann a shot as a closer but there have been concerns in the past about how long it takes him to warm up.

        Closers are normally not on my wish list and you and I are on the same wavelength in your last paragraph but Soria is a special case due to his level of performance. I’m still viewing this 2011 club as a potential contender and adding a piece like Soria while making room for Hellickson improves the club in my opinion.

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