In a move to bolster an already terrific bullpen, the A’s signed Joakim Soria to a two-year contract earlier this offseason. With a set-up role up for grabs, he seems to be the likely candidate for the job.
Soria, the 34-year-old right-hander has plenty of experience, as his career began in 2007 with the Royals. He was Kansas City’s closer for five seasons, tallying a 2.42 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while going 160/178 in save opportunities.
After five terrific seasons with the Royals, Soria was forced to miss the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery during Spring Training. He was then signed by the Texas Rangers, and returned with three months remaining in 2013. He wasn’t used as the closer, and struggled to a 3.80 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 23.2 IP.
Soria went back to his closer role with the Rangers in 2014, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 17 saves before being dealt to Detroit in July. He wasn’t sharp after his departure from Texas, posting a 4.91 ERA in 13 games during the rest of 2014.
Soria began the 2015 season with the Tigers, but would not go through a full season in the Motor City. After collecting a 2.85 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 23 saves, he was traded in July for the second season in a row, but this time to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was only used as a rental for Pittsburgh, dominating with a 2.03 ERA over 29 games, but not in the closer role.
After the Pirates were defeated by the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game, in which Soria struck out the side in a scoreless inning, he became a free agent. He was picked up by the team he started his career with, the Royals, signing a three year, $25 million deal to go back to Kansas City.
Soria’s career began its decline in 2016, when he wasn’t being used as the Royals’ closer. He went 5-8 with a 4.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 1.35 HR/9, 4.36 FIP, and 3.65 BB/9 over 70 games, his worst season yet. His ERA lowered to 3.70 in the next season, but his advanced numbers show that he was a much better pitcher. While still having issues with his walk rate (3.21 BB/9), Soria’s other numbers were outstanding, as he posted a 2.23 FIP, 0.16 HR/9, 54.8 GB% and 10.29 K/9. A FIP 1.47 points below the ERA is not normal, and tells that Soria got unlucky throughout the season, and should’ve had a sub-3.00 ERA.
In January of 2018, Kansas City traded Soria to the White Sox, and then in July once again, Soria was dealt to Milwaukee. Over 66 total games with the two clubs, the veteran reliever pitched to a 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.44 FIP, 11.13 K/9, and 0.59 HR/9. It was another season in which he pitched better than his ERA, and proved to still be a quality arm out of the bullpen.
Overall, Soria has been fantastic throughout the past two years, and the Oakland A’s recognized that. In December, Oakland inked Joakim Soria to a two-year deal, worth $15 million. It was a high price to pay a reliever at his age, and especially high considering the A’s track record of paying low prices for players. Oakland will likely enter the season with a makeshift rotation again, so they’ve focused on strengthening their bullpen to back up their starters.
After losing Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley in free agency, Soria and Lou Trivino seem to be the two candidates battling for the role. With Soria’s experience and consistency, and with Trivino’s struggles in the last two months of 2018, Soria will likely be the set-up man on Opening Day. We’ll see if he can still produce at the age of 34, on his seventh total Major League team in 2019.
Photo Sources: Associated Press, Wikipedia, Oakland Athletics via Twitter