Royals acquire Joakim Soria, but taking time in offseason acquisitions

Joakim Soria

JANUARY 2016 – Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore usually acts swiftly after a season to sign free agents or make trades. He was quick to sign reliever Joakim Soria who returns to the Royals. By New Year’s Day, Moore has typically wrapped up his major moves.

Moore obtained right-handers Wade Davis and James Shields in a Dec. 9, 2012 blockbuster with the Tampa Ray Rays, while giving up minor league player of the year Wil Myers and three other prospects, including right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

On Dec. 19, 2010, Moore traded right-hander Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers, acquiring shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain, plus Odorizzi, in a six-player trade.

The Royals signed free agent left-hander Jason Vargas on Nov. 22, 2012 to fill a rotation void.

Two months after the Royals won the 2014 American League championship and pushed the San Francisco Giants to seven games in the World Series, Moore signed four significant free agents in December – right-handers Edinson Volquez and Kris Medlen, designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Alex Rios.

Coming off their 2015 World Series triumph over the New York Mets, Moore and the Royals have been rather quiet.

There have been more subtractions than additions. Right-hander Johnny Cueto and second baseman Ben Zobrist, both rental players acquired in late July deals, have signed elsewhere. Cueto went to the Giants, while the Chicago Cubs signed Zobrist, who can play multiple positions.

Another minus was Ryan Madson, who resurrected his career and was a key cog in the Royals’ bullpen, signing with the Oakland Athletics.

The Royals have added two players, reliever Joakim Soria and backup catcher Tony Cruz.

Joakim Soria logged 160 saves, including 42 in 2008 and 43 in 2010, in five seasons with the Royals before needing his second “Tommy John” surgery in 2011. He has pitched for the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates since leaving the Royals. He combined to log 24 saves last season with the Tigers and Pirates, but will be used mostly as a setup for closer Wade Davis in the Royals’ bullpen.

Soria’s fastball averaged 92.2 mile per hour last year, his highest average fastball speed, so his elbow apparently is fully recovered. Soria never had a blow-them-away fastball, but registered outs with pitch-ability and control.

Soria, who turns 32 in May, signed a three-year $25 million contract with an option for a fourth year.

“He is very poised, great command of his fastball, just very efficient with his pitches (and) a tremendous presence in the clubhouse,” Moore said.

Cruz, who hit .204 in 69 games last season with the Cardinals, will compete with incumbent Drew Butera to be the backup for All-Star catcher Salvador Perez.

Plus the Royals re-signed pitcher Chris Young to a two-year $11.5 million contract.

Young, a 6-10 right-hander who turns 37 in May, went 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 34 games, including 18 starts, last season, and his first with the Royals. He went 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 16 relief appearances and 8-6 with a 3.18 ERA as a starter.

He held opposing hitters to a .202 average and 6.64 hits per nine innings, the best in the AL for pitchers throwing a minimum of 100 innings.

“Our players absolutely loved him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They learned a lot by watching him compete. It was that winner’s mindset that he brought in the clubhouse, not only his ability to produce as a pitcher on the mound but everything he brought to the table with him that was so important to our team.”

Young picked up the victory over the Mets in the World Series opener with three hitless innings in relief. He started Game 4 and yielded two runs in four innings.

He will figure into the Royals’ 2016 rotation plans.

“Chris Young is special,” Moore said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor, and you can make a case that he was the MVP of our pitching staff.”

Another signing did not draw headlines, but could be productive. The Royals signed Dillon Gee, a 29-year-old right-hander to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation. Gee was the Mets’ 2014 Opening Day starter and won 12 games that season. It would not come as surprise if he makes the Royals’ pitching staff as a starter or long reliever.

But there is still plenty of work left for Moore to do before spring training opens Feb.18 to bolster the roster.

The Royals could use another starting pitcher or two and have been linked to several free agents.

Though they seemed far apart in negotiations to re-sign All-Star and Gold Glove leftfielder Alex Gordon (at the writing of this article), he was recently signed to a 4-year deal.

While the Royals have been moving slow this year to make trades or sign free agents like Joakim Soria, expect Moore to pick up the pace with a busier January.

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Article by Alan Eskew

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