Joakim Soria pulled from closer’s role after taking fifth blown save

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Joakim Soria just isn’t fooling anyone.

On Monday, he gave up a two-run homer to Torii Hunter with one out in the ninth inning, giving him three straight blown saves.  He went on to allow one more run before escaping the ninth in what turned out to be a 10-8 loss to the Angels.

Soria has blown five saves at all.  It’s been obvious all year that his stuff was off, yet he still had a 3.86 ERA before his recent streak.  It’s only now that he’s gotten pummeled: in his last four appearances, he’s given up eight runs and three homers, taking his ERA up to 6.55.

The homer today came on a 2-0 fastball that he grooved right down the middle.  He’s currently averaging 90.4 mph with his heater, down from 91.9 mph last year.  That alone isn’t the root of his problems, though.  Soria has lost his curveball, and the little slider he’s turned to as its replacement just isn’t a quality offering.

With the latest blown save, the Royals had no choice but to make a move in the closer’s role, and manager Ned Yost said after Monday’s game that Soria would be pulled for now and that rookie Aaron Crow would get save chances.  The hope is that it’s a temporary change, but given that Soria has gone two months without finding his previous form, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a quick fix.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.