Should the Royals trade Joakim Soria?

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The KC Star’s Sam Mellinger thinks they should at least consider it:

There’s something that’s been discussed in certain circles of Royals fans, and this offseason it should be out in the open. Soria is among the Royals’ very best trading chips, and they should look long and hard about using it . . . Tampa Bay needs a closer, and they’re stocked with young talent. St. Louis could certainly use Soria. The Cubs and Rangers, too. Look around. Soria would be an upgrade for just about every team in baseball, and the Royals could use an upgrade at most every position.

The idea animating this is a good one: closers are almost always overrated and overvalued. Not necessarily specific ones — Soria is about as good as it gets — but the value of the position itself is overvalued.  They don’t pitch a large number of innings, and while the ones they do pitch are often high-pressure and high-leverage, that’s not always the case.  How many of any given closer’s saves are of the three-run, one inning variety?  Can’t a lot of guys handle that?

Even if the answer to that last question is “well, not, not nearly as well as Soria,” who cares?  It’s not like five blown saves one way or the other makes or breaks the Royals next season.  A strong closer is huge in the playoffs, but the Royals will never even sniff the playoffs unless and until they find some better players at just about every position on the field.  The contenders Mellinger notes could all use a guy like him way more than the Royals could, and they all have talent to spare. It makes sense.

There are only two reasons not to trade Soria: (1) the fans will get depressed; and (2) Dayton Moore is the guy doing the trading.  Reason number one can mostly be discounted. The fans are already depressed, and that depression will only continue to deepen the longer the Royals continue to lose, even if they do have a great closer.

The second reason is a much bigger problem.  Can you trust Moore to get a decent return for the guy?  This is, after all, the man who actually gave up talent to pick up one of the worst players in all of baseball last summer. The kicker? One of the guys he gave up could very easily be on his way to being Soria’s successor in the pen if he had stuck around.

But even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile, and that’s enough of a reason for the Royals’ pig to start sniffin’ around.  If not this winter — when, to be fair, there will be a lot of closers to be had — then next summer when the contenders start to realize that their bullpens aren’t what they thought they’d be when they broke camp. 

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.