Hey, Mr. Alderson! Need to retool your bullpen? I’ve got your relievers right here!
Twitter has been abuzz this afternoon with the news that former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano and Royals closer Joakim Soria are available for the taking, with Soriano opting out of his contract and Soria having his option declined by the Royals.
As far as my own thoughts on the topic go, I can sum it up in two words. (Or is it four?) And those words are: Soria-NO! Soria-YES!
Rafael Soriano is coming off a fantastic season with the Yankees, saving 42 games after taking over for the injured Mariano Rivera. His 2.26 ERA was also stellar, as were his 69 strikeouts in 67⅔ innings. But Soriano will be 33 in December and made $11 million last year. Those are big no-nos in the Sandy Alderson School of Business.
Meanwhile, Joakim Soria is coming off a disappointing season in 2011, a season that ended with Tommy John surgery. In 2012, Soria didn’t throw a pitch, but made $6 million in the final year of a four-year deal he signed prior to the 2009 season. Prior to his surgery, Soria finished 2011 with 28 saves and a 4.03 ERA, allowing nearly one hit per inning. Despite his unspectacular ERA, the 27-year-old’s numbers in other categories were fairly similar to what they had been in previous seasons.
From 2007 to 2010, Soria was one of the most dominant closers in baseball who toiled in obscurity as a member of the Royals. In those four seasons, Soria saved 132 games for a Kansas City team that finished a combined 96 games below .500. Soria also was the proud owner of a 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and averaged nearly ten strikeouts per nine innings (281 Ks in 255 IP). That wasn’t over one season. That was over FOUR YEARS!
Although his 4.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP were departures from his 2007-2010 numbers, he kept his walks low (17 BB in 60⅓ innings) and still struck out approximately one batter per inning. And let me remind you again that Soria is only 27 years old!
Considering that Soriano had a great year filling in for the man considered to be the greatest closer of all time, it would probably not be a stretch to say he will command a raise from his $11 million salary in 2012. Meanwhile, Soria is coming off Tommy John surgery and the worst season of his career, although it was still better than the one Frank Francisco gave the Mets in 2012. After making $6 million for the Royals in the final year of his contract, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that he will make a similar amount in 2013.
Frank Francisco is due to make $6 million in 2013. Joakim Soria is younger and has a better track record than Francisco. Plus, he achieved his success pitching for a team that has won fewer games than the Mets over the past four seasons. And of course, he won’t turn 28 until next May, whereas Francisco, like Soriano, is already 33.
The Mets are committed to signing David Wright to a long-term deal. But their other big need they need to address is their bullpen. Statistically speaking, the Mets had the worst bullpen in the majors in 2012. That needs to change in 2013. And Joakim Soria, who is already throwing and should be ready for spring training, could be the first piece in what should be a very different bullpen in 2013.
It’s time to stop adding relievers who are already in their 30s (Francisco, Byrdak, Rauch) and start getting younger in the bullpen. Joakim Soria would be a step in the right direction for this team. Let’s see if Sandy Alderson will get it right this time when it comes to putting together a solid bullpen.