Those clamoring for Dave Dombrowski to fix his bullpen got their wish – at least in part – as the Tigers agreed to a deal that will net them Rangers reliever Joakim Soria. They’ll give up Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, two of the better arms in their system, to get him.
Depending on whether you think Koji Uehara is available – for the purposes of this, we’ll say, at least for the moment, he isn’t – the Tigers got the best reliever on the market. In 33.1 innings this year, he’s walked just four and struck out 42. That’s a 10.5 K/BB ratio. He also hasn’t given up a home run all season. His FIP is a paltry 1.07. In short, not only was Soria the best reliever on the trade market, but he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball all season.
I’d expect Soria to slot into 8th inning duty, as the Tigers seem to remain hesitant to axe Joe Nathan from the closer’s role. That would push Joba Chamberlain back into the 7th inning or as something of a fireman. Nathan’s leash probably just got considerably shorter, however, and he may not be able to afford to struggle much longer and still keep his role.
Soria is also not a rental, at least, not if the Tigers don’t want him to be. The 30-year-old has a $7 million team option for 2015.
To get Soria, the Tigers had to give up Thompson and Knebel, both of whom could very well end up being MLB quality. Knebel is already pretty close, but never got a chance to show his worth too much with Detroit this season. Thompson projects as a mid-rotation starter. The price is steep, but as I wrote three days ago, giving up talent like this for a reliever in a trade was always inevitable. There aren’t that many sellers, and even fewer of them have quality relievers they’d be willing to move. Everyone knew the Tigers were desperate for help. In a vacuum, this isn’t a great deal for Detroit, but the alternative here was standing pat and doing nothing – and as we’ve seen from this bullpen repeatedly, doing nothing was simply not an option. The choice Dave Dombrowski was faced with wasn’t optimal, but he made the correct one in this instance.
The trade further depletes an already thin farm system, and at this point they might as well try to get another reliever, as they probably do need one more. Philadelphia’s Antonio Bastardo, a lefty who also excels against righties, would be an excellent option. Depending on salary concerns and the cost in players, his teammate Jonathan Papelbon may be worth a look – he’d probably come pretty cheap player-wise if the Tigers were willing to take on a significant portion of his contract. The Tigers bullpen is better now than it was at this time yesterday, but the price was steep – and if the Tigers are truly all-in, as this deal indicates they are, there’s little reason to stop hunting for more relief options.