The Kansas City Royals added to a strength and brought back an old friend as the team officially announced a three-year deal with relief pitcher Joakim Soria with a mutual option for the 2019 season.
The Royals initially selected Soria, 31, in the Rule 5 Draft out of the San Diego Padres organization in 2006. The right-hander served as the closer in Kansas City from 2007-2011 and was a two-time All-Star in this span. His 160 saves with the Royals is currently the third most in franchise history.
Soria missed the 2012 season recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. Kansas City declined to pick up an option and he signed with the Texas Rangers. He came back in 2013 and pitched to a 3.80 ERA in 26 games in Texas and served as their closer in 2014. He picked up 17 saves before being traded to the Detroit Tigers for Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel a week before the deadline. Soria recorded 23 saves for the Tigers in 2015 before being shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates for JaCoby Jones on July 30.
Soria appears to be fully recovered from his second operation as the Royals were comfortable enough to give him the largest contract the franchise has ever given out to a relief pitcher. They also know what kind of worker he is from his previous time in the organization. He served as the mentor to Greg Holland before Holland took over the closer’s role after Soria departed in free agency. He was around for some tough times and the team enjoyed plenty of success after he left. Now, Soria is back where it all began and is looking forward to contributing for a winning Royals ball club.
With Ryan Madson departing for Oakland and Greg Holland having his option declined and missing the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Soria allows the Royals to keep their bullpen depth intact. Wade Davis will assume the closers’ role moving forward with Kelvin Herrera and Soria occupying the seventh and eighth innings in some capacity. The team will still have Luke Hochevar in the mix and Tim Collins will be returning from his own Tommy John surgery. It appears that 2016 will be another season where the Royals will only ask their starters to give them five or six innings before turning it over to their shutdown bullpen.