Twins Lab: This Free Agent Reliever Could Benefit from Wes Johnson and Co.
Image courtesy of © Stan Szeto-USA TODAY SportsJoakim Soria was a dominant closer for the Royals during the first five years of his career. He posted a 2.40 ERA and 2.90 FIP over 315 ⅓ innings for Kansas City. Soria then pitched for six different teams over the next eight seasons, including another two year stint with the Royals. His 3.12 FIP ranked 16th among 73 relievers who threw at least 300 innings in that span.
Soria signed a healthy two-year, $15 million contract with the Athletics before the 2019 campaign. He pitched to a 3.94 ERA and 3.46 FIP in 91 ⅓ innings for Oakland. These numbers don’t jump off the page, but his subtle adjustments in 2020 show some hidden upside for the 36-year-old righty.
In a move that screams “Minnesota Twins,” Soria upped his slider usage by 70%, similar to the move Homer Bailey made in Oakland with his splitter. Opponents had an expected .234/.254 (wOBA)/.307 line against Soria’s frisbee during the shortened season, whiffing at over a 30% rate.
Even with this death-on-righties slider, lefties hit just .130 with a .361 OPS off Soria. His changeup was incredibly effective, but his fastball still has plenty of juice, too. Soria averaged 92.4 mph with his heater and it played up due to the offspeed efficiency.
Soria was simply a Statcast darling in 2020. He ranked in the 94th percentile in barrel rate, the 92nd percentile in expected wOBA and expected ERA, and the 85th percentile in expected slugging percentage.
He still threw his fastball over 65% of the time, which suggests there’s remaining room to tweak the pitch mix and pull out more value. Soria has the repertoire and profile that reminds one of Matt Wisler from last offseason, albeit with much more success and a higher price tag.
How high that price tag will be, though, is the main question. Cleveland just waived Brad Hand, the Twins wouldn’t pay Romo $5 million, and the Braves declined the $3.5 million option on Darren O’Day, a 38-year-old righty who posted a sterling 1.10 ERA in 2020.
Soria turns 37 next May and falls into the category of a solid but not great reliever. He does seem like an ideal candidate for the Twins to tweak on a lower-term deal. Worst case scenario is he ends up being the same guy he’s been for the last five years, a 3.20 FIP, 10.2 strikeouts-per-nine middle-to-late leverage righty. That has immense value in itself.
What do you think? Should the Twins sign Joakim Soria? Who else would you want to see them sign for the bullpen? Comment below!
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