The Detroit Tigers have acquired right-handed closer Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitching prospects. These right-handed pitching prospects are Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. The deal was first reported by Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com. Tigers GM Dave Dombroski confirmed an email later that current closer Joe Nathan would remain the team’s closer, despite the acquisition.
Detroit had entered the day with the fourth-worst bullpen in the American League ERA a 4.41 ERA. The Tigers has been pursuing bullpen help for weeks now and were also named to have inquired about Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, but now, Papelbon will have to sit tight and wait to see if he gets traded to a contender at the deadline.
Joakim Soria, 30, has pitched in 33.1 innings out of the bullpen and has posted a 2.70 ERA and an outstanding 1.07 FIP, while saving 17 games in his first full season since 2011. He missed all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 following his second career Tommy John surgery. Soria was signed this offseason to replace Joe Nathan, who actually signed with the Tigers, the team he was traded to. Soria’s contract includes a $7 million club option for 2015.
Jake Thompson, 20, was the Tigers’ second round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. In 89 innings spanned over 17 starts, Thompson has a 3.13 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 in 17 starts this year between 16 starts at Class-A Advanced and one at Double-A. Baseball America called him “a potential mid-rotation starter” before the season started.
Corey Knebel, 22, made his major league debut a few weeks back and has allowed seven runs in 8.2 innings in the show. In 64.1 innings in the minors since being the 39th selection in the 2013 draft, Knebel has a 1.26 ERA and an 11.8 K/9. Baseball America called him “a potential closer” before the season.
Analysis from Jeff Lannon:
The Tigers got Joakim Soria today from the Rangers for starter Jake Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel. Knebel was the best reliever prospect for the Tigers and could be a part of an MLB bullpen for years to come. Thompson was a high school second rounder, but in my opinion he had the most potential of any Tigers starter in the system, and if he develops right he could be a solid starter in the Texas rotation in a few seasons. He was impressive in the game I saw him pitch when he was with West Michigan last season, and has only gotten better. The Tigers had to pay a price for Soria, but the Tigers system isn’t very strong and they probably paid a fair price. They still have some guys to help get an arm or bat to help them this year too. I like Andrew Miller, but Antonio Bastardo could work too or maybe even Chad Qualls or Brad Ziegler could work. If the Tigers wanted to go big Benoit is still on the market too, and he should still be targeted by the Tigers. The Tigers are still a good arm in the bullpen away from solidifying it. Soria won’t close in Detroit right away but if Nathan has another cough up, Soria should be the closer for sure. I think if Ausmus handles the situation correctly that there won’t be a set closer and the best guy will be used in the best situation. If Nathan heats up, the 7-8-9 is on lockdown, because Soria has returned to his old form and then some. He’s having a career year, and it shouldn’t stop, even if he has a hiccup or two along the way. This acquisition is way better than the Tigers getting Veras last season. It helps both teams, but Soria’s 7.5 million dollar option for 2015 and if he doesn’t spontaneously combust gives the edge to the Tigers. The Tigers bullpen isn’t fixed, but it’s improved a lot by this acquisition. Soria is the best piece to acquire this deadline. Soria just needs to keep his walk rate down, because his K rate looks sustainable. I think his year has a great chance to continue his success in Detroit.