According to Rob Biertempfel, the Pittsburgh Pirates have interest in Detroit Tigers’ closer Joakim Soria. He has a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings this season, with 23 saves in 26 opportunities.
James Schmehl, who covers the Tigers, says that the deal is near.
— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) July 30, 2015
If this happens, it would be a big change from how the Pirates have typically approached the relief pitching market at the deadline in the past. Soria would be a huge addition for the bullpen, giving the Pirates a lights out trio when paired with Mark Melancon and Tony Watson. Updates will be provided as more information comes out.
UPDATE 5:59 PM: More Soria rumors:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2015
Source seconds @jamesschmehl report: Pirates showing heavy interest in Soria. Tigers had scout watching Triple-A Indy team early this week.
— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 30, 2015
Sources: Traction between Pirates and Tigers on Joakim Soria, as @jamesschmehl said, but not to point where Soria has been told.
— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) July 30, 2015
It sounds more and more like a deal is getting close, as there usually isn’t this much for just your usual interest.
UPDATE 6:06 PM: Looking over the advanced metrics, there are a few concerns for Soria. He’s got a 3.71 xFIP, which is much lower than his ERA. His strikeout rate is low this year, dropping from 9.74 to 7.90 K/9. His walk rate is up (1.22 to 2.41 BB/9) and his home run rate is way up (0.41 to 1.76 HR/9). He’s also benefitting from an extreme 94.7% strand rate, but is unlucky with a 19% HR/FB ratio. In short, he’ll probably strand fewer runners in the future, but also give up fewer home runs. If these trends continue, there could be cause for concern.
Beyond that, things are looking good for him. His line drive rate is down from last year, his velocity is at an all-time high. So maybe they’re expecting to get the old version of Soria.
UPDATE 6:07 PM: Jon Heyman says a deal is done.
soria goes to pirates. nice piuckup. team with melancon very good.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 30, 2015
UPDATE 6:13 PM: Rosenthal says they’re reviewing medicals, which is an important step, as we learned last night with Carlos Gomez.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2015
UPDATE 6:26 PM: No details yet, but Jon Morosi says it’s one minor leaguer in return.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 30, 2015
UPDATE 6:48 PM: Rob Biertempfel says it’s JaCoby Jones.
— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) July 30, 2015
UPDATE 6:51 PM: Thoughts on Jones…
I’m going to link to this article from Monday for more details. In short, I thought Jones did a great job this year of improving his defense at shortstop. He’s a very athletic player, and has some good power from the middle infield spot. There are some concerns with his strikeouts and his walks. He’s got a chance to stick at shortstop in the future, and surprisingly the bat is the biggest question mark for me due to those strikeouts, despite him always looking like a bat-first guy.
He’s a good prospect, but the Pirates can afford to lose him. They’ve got Jordy Mercer and Jung-ho Kang in the majors, Adam Frazier in Altoona (who is more of a utility player that can play shortstop in a pinch than a starter), and the lower levels will have Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, and Kevin Kramer. In short, they suddenly had an excess at shortstop and no immediate need for Jones. They do have an immediate need for a reliever like Soria.
UPDATE 6:57 PM: Pirates make it official with a press release. Said a corresponding 25-man move will come when Soria joins the team. The 40-man spot currently had an opening after Worley was designated for assignment.
UPDATE 7:17 PM: The Pirates are taking on the remainder of Soria’s salary, which is just shy of $2.6 M. The 40-man payroll page has been updated, with the Pirates around $98.2 M. They’ve added a lot of salary this month. It’s just shy of $6.5 M for the rest of the year with the additions of Ramirez, Blanton, Ishikawa, and now Soria.
UPDATE 8:32 PM: Neal Huntington had a conference call with the media, including our own Sean McCool. Here are the highlights, with some notes on the Joe Blanton deal. Huntington also said the team doesn’t plan to add a starter, which we posted about here.
On Joe Blanton:
“He’ll help solidify the bullpen. Blanton is a veteran and very experienced. Pitching in long relief and spot starts. He’s done a nice job for them this year.”
“In our minds, Blanton was a better fit for the role in terms of versatility, flexibility, and pitches. We felt that Blanton was better for that role to fill the spot on our club.”
On Worley going out today:
“We appreciate everything Vance has done. He was better as a starter. Blanton was a better fit for us.”
“Soria is a veteran closer, a late inning reliever. He lengthens and deepens our bullpen. Working to get here as early as tomorrow.”
“After we acquired Ramirez, we wanted to stay flexible. As we looked at the entirety of the board and at who and what were available, we felt like this was our best move.”
On closer role:
“Melancon is still the everyday closer. We anticipate that Mark will continue to be our closer.”
Jones and SS Depth:
“It wasn’t easy to trade [Jones]. Detroit was strong on wanting him as a return. We hated to give him up. But to get something good, you have to give up something good. Jones has an interesting tool set. He’s an interesting athlete. Not a guy we gave up willingly but a guy we had to give up to get the deal done.”
How long has this been in the works:
“Sometimes it’s one of those thing that they come together in a few conversations. Sometimes they take longer. We’ve had deals on the board that we talked about but haven’t come to fruition.”
On more deals:
“We’ll continue to look. You always look for ways to improve your club. We still like this club a lot, but we recognize things you can do to add to it. We’ve added three veterans to it that made it stronger…We’ll continue to keep our eyes and ears open and continue working.”