For a long time Joakim Soria was a rare bright spot on terrible Royals teams, closing out their few late-inning leads with dominance, but now that the Royals are playing a little better and the influx of young talent has started migrating to Kansas City he’s struggling.
Soria blew a save and took a loss yesterday, allowing three runs to the Orioles as his ERA ballooned to 5.18. Early season ERA figures can be misleading, particularly for relievers with just 15-20 innings, but Soria’s other numbers paint a similarly gloomy picture.
Prior to this season he struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings, but that has dropped to 6.1 per nine innings so far this year. Similarly his walk rate has risen from 2.5 per nine innings to 4.7 per nine innings. And he’s allowed opponents to hit .268 with a .774 OPS after previously holding them to .197 with a .546 OPS.
Twenty bad innings hardly means Soria is washed up at age 27, but his ERA rising from 2.01 to 5.18 while his secondary numbers all collapse and his average fastball velocity falls from 91.9 miles per hour to 90.3 mph is worrisome for an improving team that may soon have a whole lot more late-inning leads for their stud closer to protect. Remarkably, if you remove Soria’s numbers the rest of the Royals’ bullpen has a 3.79 ERA.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.